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Adversarial Attacks And Defense Mechanisms In AI Systems

Artificial Intelligence has ushered in a wave of technological advancement with profound implications in healthcare, Agriculture and transportation sectors. However, its most significant impact is arguably observed in cybersecurity. As AI adoption and implementation get more market share and acceptance, it introduces a fresh category of cyber threats and defensive tactics, fundamentally reshaping the dynamics of this ongoing conflict. This future prediction has both negative and positive effects. Security-wise, AI can be a great tool to make life easier and improve how we relate with our world, and it could also be a tool in the arsenal of cyber adversaries to cause disaster.

Use of AI In Attacks?

Threat actors have methods to create meticulously designed inputs or manipulate AI to exploit vulnerabilities or execute well-planned attacks using sophisticated techniques to deceive, manipulate, or compromise AI systems. These attackers invest time in comprehending the AI model gaining insights into its functions and algorithmic weaknesses before launching attacks that can manifest in diverse forms. AI can be leveraged as a means of attack due to its capacity to emulate human behaviour, seamlessly blending into an organization’s genuine network traffic.

What Are The Forms Of Adversarial Attacks?

Transfer Attacks

In this mode of attack, the attacker leverages previous successful actions to try exploiting a new target. The attack is more of probability than certainty. An example is an attacker using a created adversarial input for one model against another with similar properties. Another example is an attack launched against the automotive industry aimed at deceiving driver assistance systems to malfunction and misinterpret necessary signs for safe driving.

Poisoning Attacks

Attackers understand the vulnerability of AI models during the testing and deployment phase and leverage it to perform an evasion attack, which involves data input manipulation to trick the model into learning incorrect patterns and ultimately making wrong decisions. One common way attackers achieve this is through malicious input that is difficult to perceive by humans yet causes the model to mishandle data.

Physical Attacks

In most cases, this is an attacker’s last card, born out of frustration due to other failed attack vectors. The attacker aims to destroy an already deployed AI system, such as an autonomous vehicle. This attack could be environmental manipulation or direct interference with system functionality through damaging core components that could influence the system’s behaviour. In some cases, physical infrastructures responsible for the functioning of an AI model are targeted to render the model non-functional.

What Are The Defense Mechanisms Against Adversarial Attacks?

As stated in the earlier part of this article, attackers won’t stop trying. Adversaries will keep increasing as technology keeps growing. Building a solid defence mechanism that can match adversaries’ continuous malicious attempts is the key to preventing the attacks.

Adversarial Training

It is vital to test AI models against every possible known attack before deployment. The model must be exposed to potential attacks during training to allow necessary adjustments and promote robustness. Adversarial training enables the model to learn to identify and thwart adversarial attacks. It is important the testing isn’t a one-off to allow quick model fixes through the timely release of security patches.

Anomaly Detection Systems (ADS)

An attack on an AI model will ultimately change its behaviour in a way that would require an extremely observant person to detect. The timeframe between detecting the abnormal behaviour, stopping, and eradicating it is crucial in reducing the attack impact. An anomaly detection system identifies abnormal behaviours in models that deviate from expected patterns.

Unlike Intrusion detection systems, ADS excel at adding additional security layer by identifying novel attack vectors or subtle anomalies. They don’t rely on established attack signatures but leverage machine learning algorithms and statistical models to create baselines of ideal system behaviour, making detecting system deviation that might require further investigation easy.

Intrusion Detection Systems

Intrusion detection systems (IDS) existed before the advent of Anomaly detection systems (ADS). Both systems excel greatly at scrutinizing network traffic, analyzing system logs and other data sources to detect uncommon patterns which could symbolize an attack and raise an alert for further action. IDS systems function by comparing network traffic, logs or system behaviour against a comprehensive database of pre-defined attack patterns, so IDS perfectly work against known attack techniques and exploits, but ADS additionally work against uncommon and unknown techniques.

Judging the ability of both systems, boosting cyber defence for best performance is best through combining the two (IDS and ADS) along with an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) to ensure maximum attack detection and timely prevention.

Data Augmentation

Accuracy is vital when it comes to AI. It implies there should be zero flaws in data training to avoid preventable errors. Approach this through data augmentation focuses on enlarging training datasets by leveraging existing data to generate new ones. The approach leads to establishing new data points and the provision of more data to help improve the model’s accuracy. Rotation, scaling and flipping are excellent examples of data augmentation.

Input Preprocessing

Input processing techniques such as noise injection or input transformation are also effective ways to reduce attacks geared towards manipulating the AI model’s behaviour or extracting information that could aid further attacks. The method prevents inputs with specific characters from passing through without eliminating hidden and executable queries.


The threat of adversarial attacks on AI won’t stop. However, by prioritizing security and implementing adequate defence mechanisms, reducing the risk is possible. It is necessary to understand weaknesses and various attack methods adversaries use as they evolve and build a sophisticated defence mechanism against such attacks.




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