You Are Catching My Attention: Are Vision Transformers Bad Learners Under Backdoor Attacks?

Zenghui Yuan · Pan Zhou · Kai Zou · Yu Cheng

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 383
[ Abstract ]
[ Paper PDF [ Slides [ Poster
Thu 22 Jun 4:30 p.m. PDT — 6 p.m. PDT


Vision Transformers (ViTs), which made a splash in the field of computer vision (CV), have shaken the dominance of convolutional neural networks (CNNs). However, in the process of industrializing ViTs, backdoor attacks have brought severe challenges to security. The success of ViTs benefits from the self-attention mechanism. However, compared with CNNs, we find that this mechanism of capturing global information within patches makes ViTs more sensitive to patch-wise triggers. Under such observations, we delicately design a novel backdoor attack framework for ViTs, dubbed BadViT, which utilizes a universal patch-wise trigger to catch the model’s attention from patches beneficial for classification to those with triggers, thereby manipulating the mechanism on which ViTs survive to confuse itself. Furthermore, we propose invisible variants of BadViT to increase the stealth of the attack by limiting the strength of the trigger perturbation. Through a large number of experiments, it is proved that BadViT is an efficient backdoor attack method against ViTs, which is less dependent on the number of poisons, with satisfactory convergence, and is transferable for downstream tasks. Furthermore, the risks inside of ViTs to backdoor attacks are also explored from the perspective of existing advanced defense schemes.

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