A Little Robustness Goes a Long Way: Leveraging Robust Features for Targeted Transfer Attacks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Jacob Springer, Melanie Mitchell, Garrett Kenyon


Adversarial examples for neural network image classifiers are known to be transferable: examples optimized to be misclassified by a source classifier are often misclassified as well by classifiers with different architectures. However, targeted adversarial examples—optimized to be classified as a chosen target class—tend to be less transferable between architectures. While prior research on constructing transferable targeted attacks has focused on improving the optimization procedure, in this work we examine the role of the source classifier. Here, we show that training the source classifier to be "slightly robust"—that is, robust to small-magnitude adversarial examples—substantially improves the transferability of class-targeted and representation-targeted adversarial attacks, even between architectures as different as convolutional neural networks and transformers. The results we present provide insight into the nature of adversarial examples as well as the mechanisms underlying so-called "robust" classifiers.