Single Image Backdoor Inversion via Robust Smoothed Classifiers

Mingjie Sun · Zico Kolter

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 382


Backdoor inversion, the process of finding a backdoor trigger inserted into a machine learning model, has become the pillar of many backdoor detection and defense methods. Previous works on backdoor inversion often recover the backdoor through an optimization process to flip a support set of clean images into the target class. However, it is rarely studied and understood how large this support set should be to recover a successful backdoor. In this work, we show that one can reliably recover the backdoor trigger with as few as a single image. Specifically, we propose the SmoothInv method, which first constructs a robust smoothed version of the backdoored classifier and then performs guided image synthesis towards the target class to reveal the backdoor pattern. SmoothInv requires neither an explicit modeling of the backdoor via a mask variable, nor any complex regularization schemes, which has become the standard practice in backdoor inversion methods. We perform both quantitaive and qualitative study on backdoored classifiers from previous published backdoor attacks. We demonstrate that compared to existing methods, SmoothInv is able to recover successful backdoors from single images, while maintaining high fidelity to the original backdoor. We also show how we identify the target backdoored class from the backdoored classifier. Last, we propose and analyze two countermeasures to our approach and show that SmoothInv remains robust in the face of an adaptive attacker. Our code is available at

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