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Enhancing Transferable Adversarial Attacks on Vision Transformers through Gradient Normalization Scaling and High-Frequency Adaptation

Zhiyu Zhu · Xinyi Wang · Zhibo Jin · Jiayu Zhang · Huaming Chen

Halle B #218
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Wed 8 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Vision Transformers (ViTs) have been widely used in various domains. Similar to Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), ViTs are prone to the impacts of adversarial samples, raising security concerns in real-world applications. As one of the most effective black-box attack methods, transferable attacks can generate adversarial samples on surrogate models to directly attack the target model without accessing the parameters. However, due to the distinct internal structures of ViTs and CNNs, adversarial samples constructed by traditional transferable attack methods may not be applicable to ViTs. Therefore, it is imperative to propose more effective transferability attack methods to unveil latent vulnerabilities in ViTs. Existing methods have found that applying gradient regularization to extreme gradients across different functional regions in the transformer structure can enhance sample transferability. However, in practice, substantial gradient disparities exist even within the same functional region across different layers. Furthermore, we find that mild gradients therein are the main culprits behind reduced transferability. In this paper, we introduce a novel Gradient Normalization Scaling method for fine-grained gradient editing to enhance the transferability of adversarial attacks on ViTs. More importantly, we highlight that ViTs, unlike traditional CNNs, exhibit distinct attention regions in the frequency domain. Leveraging this insight, we delve into exploring the frequency domain to further enhance the algorithm's transferability. Through extensive experimentation on various ViT variants and traditional CNN models, we substantiate that the new approach achieves state-of-the-art performance, with an average performance improvement of 33.54\% and 42.05\% on ViT and CNN models, respectively. Our code is available at:

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