MetaPoison: Practical General-purpose Clean-label Data Poisoning


Data poisoning–the process by which an attacker takes control of a model by making imperceptible changes to a subset of the training data–is an emerging threat in the context of neural networks. Existing attacks for data poisoning have relied on hand-crafted heuristics. Instead, we pose crafting poisons more generally as a bi-level optimization problem, where the inner level corresponds to training a network on a poisoned dataset and the outer level corresponds to updating those poisons to achieve a desired behavior on the trained model. We then propose MetaPoison, a first-order method to solve this optimization quickly. MetaPoison is effective: it outperforms previous clean-label poisoning methods by a large margin under the same setting. MetaPoison is robust: its poisons transfer to a variety of victims with unknown hyperparameters and architectures. MetaPoison is also general-purpose, working not only in fine-tuning scenarios, but also for end-to-end training from scratch with remarkable success, e.g. causing a target image to be misclassified 90% of the time via manipulating just 1% of the dataset. Additionally, MetaPoison can achieve arbitrary adversary goals not previously possible–like using poisons of one class to make a target image don the label of another arbitrarily chosen class. Finally, MetaPoison works in the real-world. We demonstrate successful data poisoning of models trained on Google Cloud AutoML Vision.

  • Authors contributed equally