We study the most practical problem setup for evaluating adversarial robustness of a machine learning system with limited access: the hard-label black-box attack setting for generating adversarial examples, where limited model queries are allowed and only the decision is provided to a queried data input. Several algorithms have been proposed for this problem but they typically require huge amount (>20,000) of queries for attacking one example. Among them, one of the state-of-the-art approaches (Cheng et al., 2019) showed that hard-label attack can be modeled as an optimization problem where the objective function can be evaluated by binary search with additional model queries, thereby a zeroth order optimization algorithm can be applied. In this paper, we adopt the same optimization formulation but propose to directly estimate the sign of gradient at any direction instead of the gradient itself, which enjoys the benefit of single query.
Using this single query oracle for retrieving sign of directional derivative, we develop a novel query-efficient Sign-OPT approach for hard-label black-box attack. We provide a convergence analysis of the new algorithm and conduct experiments on several models on MNIST, CIFAR-10 and ImageNet.
We find that Sign-OPT attack consistently requires 5X to 10X fewer queries when compared to the current state-of-the-art approaches, and usually converges to an adversarial example with smaller perturbation.