Election Coding for Distributed Learning: Protecting SignSGD against Byzantine Attacks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Jy-yong Sohn, Dong-Jun Han, Beongjun Choi, Jaekyun Moon


Current distributed learning systems suffer from serious performance degradation under Byzantine attacks. This paper proposes Election Coding, a coding-theoretic framework to guarantee Byzantine-robustness for distributed learning algorithms based on signed stochastic gradient descent (SignSGD) that minimizes the worker-master communication load. The suggested framework explores new information-theoretic limits of finding the majority opinion when some workers could be attacked by adversary, and paves the road to implement robust and communication-efficient distributed learning algorithms. Under this framework, we construct two types of codes, random Bernoulli codes and deterministic algebraic codes, that tolerate Byzantine attacks with a controlled amount of computational redundancy and guarantee convergence in general non-convex scenarios. For the Bernoulli codes, we provide an upper bound on the error probability in estimating the signs of the true gradients, which gives useful insights into code design for Byzantine tolerance. The proposed deterministic codes are proven to perfectly tolerate arbitrary Byzantine attacks. Experiments on real datasets confirm that the suggested codes provide substantial improvement in Byzantine tolerance of distributed learning systems employing SignSGD.