Imitation Attacks and Defenses for Black-box Machine Translation Systems

Eric Wallace, Mitchell Stern, Dawn Song


Abstract
Adversaries may look to steal or attack black-box NLP systems, either for financial gain or to exploit model errors. One setting of particular interest is machine translation (MT), where models have high commercial value and errors can be costly. We investigate possible exploitations of black-box MT systems and explore a preliminary defense against such threats. We first show that MT systems can be stolen by querying them with monolingual sentences and training models to imitate their outputs. Using simulated experiments, we demonstrate that MT model stealing is possible even when imitation models have different input data or architectures than their target models. Applying these ideas, we train imitation models that reach within 0.6 BLEU of three production MT systems on both high-resource and low-resource language pairs. We then leverage the similarity of our imitation models to transfer adversarial examples to the production systems. We use gradient-based attacks that expose inputs which lead to semantically-incorrect translations, dropped content, and vulgar model outputs. To mitigate these vulnerabilities, we propose a defense that modifies translation outputs in order to misdirect the optimization of imitation models. This defense degrades the adversary’s BLEU score and attack success rate at some cost in the defender’s BLEU and inference speed.
Anthology ID:
2020.emnlp-main.446
Volume:
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)
Month:
November
Year:
2020
Address:
Online
Venue:
EMNLP
SIG:
Publisher:
Association for Computational Linguistics
Note:
Pages:
5531–5546
Language:
URL:
https://www.aclweb.org/anthology/2020.emnlp-main.446
DOI:
10.18653/v1/2020.emnlp-main.446
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PDF:
http://aclanthology.lst.uni-saarland.de/2020.emnlp-main.446.pdf