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Nearest is Not Dearest: Towards Practical Defense against Quantization-conditioned Backdoor Attacks

Boheng Li · Yishuo Cai · Haowei Li · Feng Xue · Zhifeng Li · Yiming Li

Arch 4A-E Poster #29
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Fri 21 Jun 5 p.m. PDT — 6:30 p.m. PDT

Abstract: Model quantization is widely used to compress and accelerate deep neural networks. However, recent studies have revealed the feasibility of weaponizing model quantization via implanting quantization-conditioned backdoors (QCBs). These special backdoors stay dormant on released full-precision models but will come into effect after standard quantization. Due to the peculiarity of QCBs, existing defenses have minor effects on reducing their threats or are even infeasible. In this paper, we conduct the first in-depth analysis of QCB. We reveal that the activation of existing QCBs primarily stems from the nearest rounding operation and is closely related to the norms of neuron-wise truncation errors ($i.e.$, the difference between the continuous full-precision weights and its quantized version). Motivated by these insights, we propose \textbf{E}rror-guided \textbf{F}lipped \textbf{R}ounding with \textbf{A}ctivation \textbf{P}reservation (EFRAP), an effective and practical defense against QCBs. Specifically, EFRAP learns a non-nearest rounding strategy with neuron-wise error norm and layer-wise activation preservation guidance, flipping the rounding strategies of neurons crucial for backdoor effects but with minimal impact on clean accuracy. Extensive evaluations on benchmark datasets demonstrate that our EFRAP can defeat state-of-the-art QCB attacks under various settings.

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