ParaFuzz: An Interpretability-Driven Technique for Detecting Poisoned Samples in NLP


Backdoor attacks have emerged as a prominent threat to natural language processing (NLP) models, where the presence of specific triggers in the input can lead poisoned models to misclassify these inputs to predetermined target classes. Current detection mechanisms are limited by their inability to address more covert backdoor strategies, such as style-based attacks. In this work, we propose an innovative test-time poisoned sample detection framework that hinges on the interpretability of model predictions, grounded in the semantic meaning of inputs. We contend that triggers (e.g., infrequent words) are not supposed to fundamentally alter the underlying semantic meanings of poisoned samples as they want to stay stealthy. Based on this observation, we hypothesize that while the model’s predictions for paraphrased clean samples should remain stable, predictions for poisoned samples should revert to their true labels upon the mutations applied to triggers during the paraphrasing process. We employ ChatGPT, a state-of-the-art large language model, as our paraphraser and formulate the trigger-removal task as a prompt engineering problem. We adopt fuzzing, a technique commonly used for unearthing software vulnerabilities, to discover optimal paraphrase prompts that can effectively eliminate triggers while concurrently maintaining input semantics. Experiments on 4 types of backdoor attacks, including the subtle style backdoors, and 4 distinct datasets demonstrate that our approach surpasses baseline methods, including STRIP, RAP, and ONION, in precision and recall.

Proceedings of The 37th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS)