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Finding Naturally Occurring Physical Backdoors in Image Datasets
Emily Wenger · Roma Bhattacharjee · Arjun Nitin Bhagoji · Josephine Passananti · Emilio Andere · Heather Zheng · Ben Zhao

Wed Nov 30 02:00 PM -- 04:00 PM (PST) @ Hall J #1015

Extensive literature on backdoor poison attacks has studied attacks and defenses for backdoors using “digital trigger patterns.” In contrast, “physical backdoors” use physical objects as triggers, have only recently been identified, and are qualitatively different enough to resist most defenses targeting digital trigger backdoors. Research on physical backdoors is limited by access to large datasets containing real images of physical objects co-located with misclassification targets. Building these datasets is time- and labor-intensive.This work seeks to address the challenge of accessibility for research on physical backdoor attacks. We hypothesize that there may be naturally occurring physically co-located objects already present in popular datasets such as ImageNet. Once identified, a careful relabeling of these data can transform them into training samples for physical backdoor attacks. We propose a method to scalably identify these subsets of potential triggers in existing datasets, along with the specific classes they can poison. We call these naturally occurring trigger-class subsets natural backdoor datasets. Our techniques successfully identify natural backdoors in widely-available datasets, and produce models behaviorally equivalent to those trained on manually curated datasets. We release our code to allow the research community to create their own datasets for research on physical backdoor attacks.

Author Information

Emily Wenger (University of Chicago)
Emily Wenger

Emily Wenger is a final year computer science PhD student at the University of Chicago, advised by Ben Zhao and Heather Zheng. Her research focuses on security and privacy issues of machine learning systems. Her work has been published at top computer security (CCS, USENIX, Oakland) and machine learning (NeurIPS, CVPR) conferences and has been covered by media outlets including the New York Times, MIT Tech Review, and Nature. She is the recipient of the GFSD, Harvey, and Neubauer fellowships. Previously, she worked for the US Department of Defense and interned at Meta AI Research.

Roma Bhattacharjee (Princeton University)
Arjun Nitin Bhagoji (University of Chicago)
Josephine Passananti
Emilio Andere (University of Chicago)
Heather Zheng (University of Chicago)
Ben Zhao (University of Chicago)

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