How Sampling Impacts the Robustness of Stochastic Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Sina Däubener, Asja Fischer


Stochastic neural networks (SNNs) are random functions whose predictions are gained by averaging over multiple realizations. Consequently, a gradient-based adversarial example is calculated based on one set of samples and its classification on another set. In this paper, we derive a sufficient condition for such a stochastic prediction to be robust against a given sample-based attack. This allows us to identify the factors that lead to an increased robustness of SNNs and gives theoretical explanations for: (i) the well known observation, that increasing the amount of samples drawn for the estimation of adversarial examples increases the attack's strength,(ii) why increasing the number of samples during an attack can not fully reduce the effect of stochasticity, (iii) why the sample size during inference does not influence the robustness, and(iv) why a higher gradient variance and a shorter expected value of the gradient relates to a higher robustness. Our theoretical findings give a unified view on the mechanisms underlying previously proposed approaches for increasing attack strengths or model robustness and are verified by an extensive empirical analysis.