Model-reuse attacks on deep learning systems

Yujie Ji, Xinyang Zhang, Shouling Ji, Xiapu Luo, Ting Wang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

93 Scopus citations


Many of today’s machine learning (ML) systems are built by reusing an array of, often pre-trained, primitive models, each fulfilling distinct functionality (e.g., feature extraction). The increasing use of primitive models significantly simplifies and expedites the development cycles of ML systems. Yet, because most of such models are contributed and maintained by untrusted sources, their lack of standardization or regulation entails profound security implications, about which little is known thus far. In this paper, we demonstrate that malicious primitive models pose immense threats to the security of ML systems. We present a broad class of model-reuse attacks wherein maliciously crafted models trigger host ML systems to misbehave on targeted inputs in a highly predictable manner. By empirically studying four deep learning systems (including both individual and ensemble systems) used in skin cancer screening, speech recognition, face verification, and autonomous steering, we show that such attacks are (i) effective - the host systems misbehave on the targeted inputs as desired by the adversary with high probability, (ii) evasive - the malicious models function indistinguishably from their benign counterparts on non-targeted inputs, (iii) elastic - the malicious models remain effective regardless of various system design choices and tuning strategies, and (iv) easy - the adversary needs little prior knowledge about the data used for system tuning or inference. We provide analytical justification for the effectiveness of model-reuse attacks, which points to the unprecedented complexity of today’s primitive models. This issue thus seems fundamental to many ML systems. We further discuss potential countermeasures and their challenges, which lead to several promising research directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCCS 2018 - Proceedings of the 2018 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781450356930
StatePublished - Oct 15 2018
Event25th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2018 - Toronto, Canada
Duration: Oct 15 2018 → …

Publication series

NameProceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security
ISSN (Print)1543-7221


Other25th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, CCS 2018
Period10/15/18 → …

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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