Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Robustness of AI-Image Detectors: Fundamental Limits and Practical Attacks

Mehrdad Saberi · Vinu Sankar Sadasivan · Keivan Rezaei · Aounon Kumar · Atoosa Chegini · Wenxiao Wang · Soheil Feizi

Halle B #42
[ ] [ Project Page ]
Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


In light of recent advancements in generative AI models, it has become essential to distinguish genuine content from AI-generated one to prevent the malicious usage of fake materials as authentic ones and vice versa. Various techniques have been introduced for identifying AI-generated images, with watermarking emerging as a promising approach. In this paper, we analyze the robustness of various AI-image detectors including watermarking and classifier-based deepfake detectors. For watermarking methods that introduce subtle image perturbations (i.e., low perturbation budget methods), we reveal a fundamental trade-off between the evasion error rate (i.e., the fraction of watermarked images detected as non-watermarked ones) and the spoofing error rate (i.e., the fraction of non-watermarked images detected as watermarked ones) upon an application of a diffusion purification attack. In this regime, we also empirically show that diffusion purification effectively removes watermarks with minimal changes to images. For high perturbation watermarking methods where notable changes are applied to images, the diffusion purification attack is not effective. In this case, we develop a model substitution adversarial attack that can successfully remove watermarks. Moreover, we show that watermarking methods are vulnerable to spoofing attacks where the attacker aims to have real images (potentially obscene) identified as watermarked ones, damaging the reputation of the developers. In particular, by just having black-box access to the watermarking method, we show that one can generate a watermarked noise image which can be added to the real images to have them falsely flagged as watermarked ones. Finally, we extend our theory to characterize a fundamental trade-off between the robustness and reliability of classifier-based deep fake detectors and demonstrate it through experiments. Code is available at

Chat is not available.