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Rethinking Adversarial Policies: A Generalized Attack Formulation and Provable Defense in RL

Xiangyu Liu · Souradip Chakraborty · Yanchao Sun · Furong Huang

Halle B #285
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT

Abstract: Most existing works focus on direct perturbations to the victim's state/action or the underlying transition dynamics to demonstrate the vulnerability of reinforcement learning agents to adversarial attacks. However, such direct manipulations may not be always realizable.In this paper, we consider a multi-agent setting where a well-trained victim agent $\nu$ is exploited by an attacker controlling another agent $\alpha$ with an \textit{adversarial policy}. Previous models do not account for the possibility that the attacker may only have partial control over $\alpha$ or that the attack may produce easily detectable ``abnormal'' behaviors. Furthermore, there is a lack of provably efficient defenses against these adversarial policies. To address these limitations, we introduce a generalized attack framework that has the flexibility to model to what extent the adversary is able to control the agent, and allows the attacker to regulate the state distribution shift and produce stealthier adversarial policies. Moreover, we offer a provably efficient defense with polynomial convergence to the most robust victim policy through adversarial training with timescale separation. This stands in sharp contrast to supervised learning, where adversarial training typically provides only \textit{empirical} defenses.Using the Robosumo competition experiments, we show that our generalized attack formulation results in much stealthier adversarial policies when maintaining the same winning rate as baselines. Additionally, our adversarial training approach yields stable learning dynamics and less exploitable victim policies.

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