To Transfer or Not to Transfer: Misclassification Attacks Against Transfer Learned Text Classifiers
Transfer learning --- transferring learned knowledge --- has brought a paradigm shift in the way models are trained. The lucrative benefits of improved accuracy and reduced training time have shown promise in training models with constrained computational resources and fewer training samples. Specifically, publicly available text-based models such as GloVe and BERT that are trained on large corpus of datasets have seen ubiquitous adoption in practice. In this paper, we ask, "can transfer
... g in text prediction models be exploited to perform misclassification attacks?" As our main contribution, we present novel attack techniques that utilize unintended features learnt in the teacher (public) model to generate adversarial examples for student (downstream) models. To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first work to show that transfer learning from state-of-the-art word-based and sentence-based teacher models increase the susceptibility of student models to misclassification attacks. First, we propose a novel word-score based attack algorithm for generating adversarial examples against student models trained using context-free word-level embedding model. On binary classification tasks trained using the GloVe teacher model, we achieve an average attack accuracy of 97% for the IMDB Movie Reviews and 80% for the Fake News Detection. For multi-class tasks, we divide the Newsgroup dataset into 6 and 20 classes and achieve an average attack accuracy of 75% and 41% respectively. Next, we present length-based and sentence-based misclassification attacks for the Fake News Detection task trained using a context-aware BERT model and achieve 78% and 39% attack accuracy respectively. Thus, our results motivate the need for designing training techniques that are robust to unintended feature learning, specifically for transfer learned models.