NeurIPS 2019
Sun Dec 8th through Sat the 14th, 2019 at Vancouver Convention Center
Paper ID:4488
Title:Manipulating a Learning Defender and Ways to Counteract

Reviewer 1

The paper is written well; analysis is clear and results are reasonable. Nevertheless, the model setup is rather simple, lacking of real problem illustration. Also, the learning process for the defender is missing.

Reviewer 2

Clarity: The paper is a pleasure to read. The motivation is clear and the problem is well situated with respect to other work in the literature. The paper is self contained and in general, flows well. Due to space constraints, some of the content such as simulation results were deferred to the appendix. Quality: The approach and derivations shown in the main paper appear to be sound and correct. That said, I did not scrutinize the derivations given in the appendix. Clarifications needed: (1) It is claimed in the introduction that the problem of finding the optimal EoP can be done in polynomial time by performing binary search on \xi. Does `polynomial’ here include being polynomial with respect to the true optimal (1/\xi)? If not, could one possible construct a particular set of payoffs which has arbitrarily small \xi, that is, when binary search is applied, could take arbitrarily many iterations. (2) The setting in section 6 is unclear to me. The motivation behind the QR policy is allowing for a continuous set of attacker types. On the other hand, the model being considered is strictly more general than in previous section (allowing for randomized commitments), and is reported to obtain better utility than the “perfectly rational” agent. In this setting, is the attacker aware of the bounded rationality behind the defender? If so, is the optimal report of the attacker (assuming the attacker type is the space of all possible attacker payoffs) still one that makes the “fake” game zero-sum? Furthermore, is there any particular reason why the authors selected the QR policy (other than convenience?). There are other models for bounded rationality that result in randomized outcomes Originality: The problem setting and the contributions listed earlier are novel to the best of my knowledge. Significance: The paper shows the counterintuitive that a manipulative attacker is incentivized to report payoffs which make the game zero-sum. The EoP metric is sensible and could be of interest to the game theory or multi-agent communities, in particular, those who work on deception. The setting of a manipulative attacker featured here is (to the best of my knowledge) fairly novel. Other comments: (3) There appears to be a typo in Example 1: the payoffs should be r_A = 3 and r_B = 1; in the text, these values are swapped. (4) It is known that stackelberg games may be reformulated (albeit in a clunky fashion) as an extensive form game (see the manuscript “On Stackelberg Mixed Strategies” by Vincent Conitzer). It appears (correct me if I am mistaken) that the problem setting considered in this paper could be given the same treatment. This conversion to extensive form games could also be performed for the setting with randomized defender policies. Could the authors provide some insight here? =============================== Post rebuttal: The authors have addressed my concerns adequately. That said, I maintain that section 6 is poorly written and should be significantly improved, alongside the other recommended changes. As such, I am keeping my score unchanged.

Reviewer 3

Originality ------------ The paper appears to be fairly original with respect to the SSG literature. However, my primary concern is that it does not reference the mechanism design literature -- and appears to be highly related to that line of research. In particular, one way to describe the contributions of this work are that they extend the analysis of SSGs to the case of multiple unknown types and account for the incentive for the attacker to lie about his type. For example, a bit of time on Google scholar pointed me to, e.g., "A Dynamic Bayesian Security Game Framework for Strategic Defense Mechanism Design" and "Design of Incentive Compatible Mechanisms for Stackelberg Problems." Each of these deal with truthful reporting and Stackelberg games (although the setting is somewhat different from the setting considered here). In order to fully evaluate the originality of this work, the authors should update the paper to include a brief review of this line of work and exlicity compare/contrast it to their contributions here. Quality -------- The theoretical results are well motivated, and the proofs are sound. The overall quality of the paper is quite good, with the fairly stark exception of section 6. The authors introduce quantal response equilibria as a way to handle infinite attacker types and refer to a set of simulations on random games in order to argue for its performance. I do not see the value in this section, other than pointing our that this strategy can be computed for infinite type sets. The experiments are referred to with so little detail that the reader simply can not get the full picture without referencing the supplementary materials. The authors then refer to the surprising result that the QR policy achieves better performance than the optimal response. This is somewhat surprising (although possible due to the entropy maximizing nature of the softmax distribution used), but the main issue is that it does not appear to be supported by the figures in the supplementary material. From my look at figures B.2 and B.3, there is only a small region of one graph where the QR policy outperforms the optimal policy. Overall, this section would be improved by removing the experimental results as they currently stand --- evaluated as a stand alone work, they are too vague to make a real argument and they appear to mischaracterize the data in the supplementary material. To me, the paper would be better served by either removing this section (to free up space to improve the theoretical results), or figuring out a way to include a more complete representation of the experiments. Alternatively, this section could be reframed to discuss the relative performance of the optimal strategy from section 5 and the SSE solution, which lines up better with the contributions in the introduction. Clarity ------- Overall, the paper is reasonably well-written. There are several places where the paper's readability can be improved, I've highlighted the major areas for improvement below and have some smaller comments at the bottom of the review. 164: Is this program for the optimal sequence of responses? or just for the next report? Looking back, I think I can see where I got confused --- this is representing the full interaction and the disclaimers above allow for this simplified representation. Perhaps it would help to link the form of this program to the assumptions above and explain how they help to simplify the representation. In many ways, this formulation is a key contribution of the paper and so it is important to clarify how it is an improvement over the naive formulation of learning. 176: I think it could be good to redo the reduced version of the proof for the paper, focusing more on conveying the intuition and steps in the proof at a more abstract level. Right now, it is quite notation dense and does not convey much information to the reader beyond the need to look in the supplementary material. To some extent, the proofs in the supplementary material could use some clarification as well to make them accessible to a broader audience. For example, consider providing some intuition behind the maximin strategy profile used or explaining the intuition behind why the maximin performance can't be improved in the final proof step. 209: This is a good example, but I think it can be improved by 1) clarifying here that this is bad for the defender because they would really prefer to attack A. I also wonder about this strategy, because it seems to rely on an assumption the A is more likely to be more valuable than B? It seems like this type of approach will depend on the structure of the set of attacker profiles $\Theta$ (this is mentioned in 232, but would be good to bring earlier in the writing IMO) 239: this explanation is hard to follow, it seems like the assumption about $\Theta$ being the true types is out of place. Consider being more specific about the definition earlier on: e.g., EoP is the ratio of the defenders utility under the policy to the utility the would get if they knew the true type. It is less than 1 because.... A higher EoP means that the defender is closer to matching the utility achieved when the attacker's type is known. Significance -------------- I believe the paper here is significant in that it identifies and clearly illustrates a clear gap in some of the existing literature on Stackelberg games. The authors effectively argue that this gap is significant. On that basis, I believe that the paper is worthy of acceptance. However, I believe that the current presentation does not do an adequate job of comparing the work to existing literature and it makes it hard to judge the significance of the additional contributions in the work. In particular, the authors can do a better job of arguing why their proposed EoP measure is a good measurement of performance in this setting as the utility of their algorithm and the implications of their experimental results both hinge on this. Other Suggestions --------------------- 142: "resulting in his utility to increase" 148: clarify the significance of these results for a more general audience: why is playing the maximin strategy bad? 157: A little hard to follow here. Maybe, consider using alternative word or phrase than "conforms," which is doing a lot of work here. 232: "we face the following challenges" --- the list of challenges is separated across multiple paragraphs so this list increases cognitive load on the reader and hurts clarity. I would get rid of the rhetorical question; list the two challenges here; and then describe them in more detail in subsequent paragraphs. 238: "termed" awk, rephrase 288: "will act truthfully" --- I think this should be 'untruthfully'? 246: move this proposition to be closer to the text it is referenced by 252: maintain consistent capitalization for EoP_\theta

Reviewer 4

The paper is well written and the mathematics looks correct. The technical presentation of the paper is concise, and concrete examples are used to illustrate the fundamental ideas. All theoretical results are supplemented with complete proofs. Also such research could shed some light on poissoning attacks in adversarial machine learning, a current hot subject. Limitations: - The empirical results should be moved from the supplemental, to the main paper. As the paper stands, its presentation is incomplete. Whole sections of a paper shouldn't be moved to supplemental in order to make space. Page limits exist for a reason and should be respected. - One thing that bugs me is that the authors assume there is such a thing as a "learning phase" and "testing phase". I doubt such a division of concerns is reasonable in real-life. Also, assuming that the space of possible attack types for the attacker / follower is public known is rather a very restricted assumption. In "real-life", a defender would eventually learn the attacker's type modulo statistical noice associated to the fact that only a finite number of interactions are available. Thus a defender could replace empirically learned follower / attacker type with an uncertainty set around it (as is done in "distributionally robust optimization" literature), and play against an imaginary attacker with worst-case type in this uncertainty set. This would be optimal and data-driven. No ? - The new proposed goodness measure EoP, seems somewhat adhoc. What interesting conceptual / theoretical properties does EoP have ? A theoretical comparison to more classical measures would be worthwhile. Typos: - line 57: improvement ==> bring improvement ? - line 64: please give concrete examples of such "many real-world" situations