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Defending Against Patch-Based Backdoor Attacks on Self-Supervised Learning

Ajinkya Tejankar · Maziar Sanjabi · Qifan Wang · Sinong Wang · Hamed Firooz · Hamed Pirsiavash · Liang Tan

West Building Exhibit Halls ABC 383


Recently, self-supervised learning (SSL) was shown to be vulnerable to patch-based data poisoning backdoor attacks. It was shown that an adversary can poison a small part of the unlabeled data so that when a victim trains an SSL model on it, the final model will have a backdoor that the adversary can exploit. This work aims to defend self-supervised learning against such attacks. We use a three-step defense pipeline, where we first train a model on the poisoned data. In the second step, our proposed defense algorithm (PatchSearch) uses the trained model to search the training data for poisoned samples and removes them from the training set. In the third step, a final model is trained on the cleaned-up training set. Our results show that PatchSearch is an effective defense. As an example, it improves a model’s accuracy on images containing the trigger from 38.2% to 63.7% which is very close to the clean model’s accuracy, 64.6%. Moreover, we show that PatchSearch outperforms baselines and state-of-the-art defense approaches including those using additional clean, trusted data. Our code is available at

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