Bo Li, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik
The success of machine learning, particularly in supervised settings, has led to numerous attempts to apply it in adversarial settings such as spam and malware detection. The core challenge in this class of applications is that adversaries are not static data generators, but make a deliberate effort to evade the classifiers deployed to detect them. We investigate both the problem of modeling the objectives of such adversaries, as well as the algorithmic problem of accounting for rational, objective-driven adversaries. In particular, we demonstrate severe shortcomings of feature reduction in adversarial settings using several natural adversarial objective functions, an observation that is particularly pronounced when the adversary is able to substitute across similar features (for example, replace words with synonyms or replace letters in words). We offer a simple heuristic method for making learning more robust to feature cross-substitution attacks. We then present a more general approach based on mixed-integer linear programming with constraint generation, which implicitly trades off overfitting and feature selection in an adversarial setting using a sparse regularizer along with an evasion model. Our approach is the first method for combining an adversarial classification algorithm with a very general class of models of adversarial classifier evasion. We show that our algorithmic approach significantly outperforms state-of-the-art alternatives.