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Neural Attention Distillation: Erasing Backdoor Triggers from Deep Neural Networks

Yige Li · Xixiang Lyu · Nodens Koren · Lingjuan Lyu · Bo Li · Xingjun Ma

Keywords: [ Neural Attention Distillation ] [ Backdoor Defense ] [ deep neural networks ]


Deep neural networks (DNNs) are known vulnerable to backdoor attacks, a training time attack that injects a trigger pattern into a small proportion of training data so as to control the model's prediction at the test time. Backdoor attacks are notably dangerous since they do not affect the model's performance on clean examples, yet can fool the model to make the incorrect prediction whenever the trigger pattern appears during testing. In this paper, we propose a novel defense framework Neural Attention Distillation (NAD) to erase backdoor triggers from backdoored DNNs. NAD utilizes a teacher network to guide the finetuning of the backdoored student network on a small clean subset of data such that the intermediate-layer attention of the student network aligns with that of the teacher network. The teacher network can be obtained by an independent finetuning process on the same clean subset. We empirically show, against 6 state-of-the-art backdoor attacks, NAD can effectively erase the backdoor triggers using only 5\% clean training data without causing obvious performance degradation on clean examples. Our code is available at

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