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FedInverse: Evaluating Privacy Leakage in Federated Learning

DI WU · Jun Bai · Yiliao Song · Junjun Chen · Wei Zhou · Yong Xiang · Atul Sajjanhar

Halle B #267
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Wed 8 May 1:45 a.m. PDT — 3:45 a.m. PDT


Federated Learning (FL) is a distributed machine learning technique where multiple devices (such as smartphones or IoT devices) train a shared global model by using their local data. FL claims that the data privacy of local participants is preserved well because local data will not be shared with either the server-side or other training participants. However, this paper discovers a pioneering finding that a model inversion (MI) attacker, who acts as a benign participant, can invert the shared global model and obtain the data belonging to other participants. This will lead to severe data-leakage risk in FL because it is difficult to identify attackers from benign participants.In addition, we found even the most advanced defense approaches could not effectively address this issue. Therefore, it is important to evaluate such data-leakage risks of an FL system before using it. To alleviate this issue, we propose FedInverse to evaluate whether the FL global model can be inverted by MI attackers. In particular, FedInverse can be optimized by leveraging the Hilbert-Schmidt independence criterion (HSIC) as a regularizer to adjust the diversity of the MI attack generator. We test FedInverse with three typical MI attackers, GMI, KED-MI, and VMI, and the experiments show our FedInverse method can successfully obtain the data belonging to other participants. The code of this work is available at

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