Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track
yunrui yu, Xitong Gao, Cheng-Zhong Xu
Adversarial attacks can deceive neural networks by adding tiny perturbations to their input data. Ensemble defenses, which are trained to minimize attack transferability among sub-models, offer a promising research direction to improve robustness against such attacks while maintaining a high accuracy on natural inputs. We discover, however, that recent state-of-the-art (SOTA) adversarial attack strategies cannot reliably evaluate ensemble defenses, sizeably overestimating their robustness. This paper identifies the two factors that contribute to this behavior. First, these defenses form ensembles that are notably difficult for existing gradient-based method to attack, due to gradient obfuscation. Second, ensemble defenses diversify sub-model gradients, presenting a challenge to defeat all sub-models simultaneously, simply summing their contributions may counteract the overall attack objective; yet, we observe that ensemble may still be fooled despite most sub-models being correct. We therefore introduce MORA, a model-reweighing attack to steer adversarial example synthesis by reweighing the importance of sub-model gradients. MORA finds that recent ensemble defenses all exhibit varying degrees of overestimated robustness. Comparing it against recent SOTA white-box attacks, it can converge orders of magnitude faster while achieving higher attack success rates across all ensemble models examined with three different ensemble modes (i.e, ensembling by either softmax, voting or logits). In particular, most ensemble defenses exhibit near or exactly $0\%$ robustness against MORA with $\ell^\infty$ perturbation within $0.02$ on CIFAR-10, and $0.01$ on CIFAR-100. We make MORA open source with reproducible results and pre-trained models; and provide a leaderboard of ensemble defenses under various attack strategies.