IEEE Computer Society Emerging Technology Fund Recipient Introduces Machine Learning Cybersecurity Benchmarks

Published 05/05/2023
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Emerging Technologies

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 5 May 2023 – Today, at the virtual Backdoor Attacks and Defenses in Machine Learning (BANDS) workshop during The Eleventh International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR), participants in the IEEE Trojan Removal Competition presented their findings and success rates at effectively and efficiently mitigating the effects of neural trojans while maintaining high performance. Evaluated on clean accuracy, poisoned accuracy, and attack success rate, the competition’s winning team from the Harbin Institute of Technology in Shenzhen, with set HZZQ Defense, formulated a highly effective solution, resulting in a 98.14% poisoned accuracy rate and only a 0.12% attack success rate. This group will be awarded the first-place prize of $5,000 USD.

“The IEEE Trojan Removal Competition is a fundamental solution to improve the trustworthy implementation of neural networks from implanted backdoors,” said Prof. Meikang Qiu, chair of IEEE Smart Computing Special Technical Committee (SCSTC) and full professor of Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Science at Dakota State University, Madison, S.D., U.S.A.  He also was named the distinguished contributor of IEEE Computer Society in 2021. “This competition’s emphasis on Trojan Removal is vital because it encourages research and development efforts toward enhancing an underexplored but paramount issue.”

In 2022, IEEE CS established its Emerging Technology Fund, and for the first time, awarded $25,000 USD to IEEE SCSTC for the “Annual Competition on Emerging Issues of Data Security and Privacy (EDISP),” which yielded the IEEE Trojan Removal Competition (TRC ’22). The proposal offered a novel take on a cyber topic, because unlike most existing competitions that only focus on backdoor model detection, this competition encouraged participants to explore solutions that can enhance the security of neural networks. By developing general, effective, and efficient white box trojan removal techniques, participants have contributed to building trust in deep learning and artificial intelligence, especially for pre-trained models in the wild, which is crucial to protecting artificial intelligence from potential attacks.

With 1,706 valid submissions from 44 teams worldwide, six groups successfully developed techniques that achieved better results than the state-of-the-art baseline metrics published in top machine-learning venues. The benchmarks summarizing the models and attacks used during the competition are being released to enable additional research and evaluation.

“We’re hoping that this benchmark provides diverse and easy access to model settings for people coming up with new AI security techniques,” shared Yi Zeng, the competition chair of the IEEE TRC’22, research assistant at Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., U.S.A. “This competition has yielded new data sets consisting of trained poisoned pre-trained models that are of different architectures and trained on diverse kinds of data distributions with really high attack success rates, and now developers can explore new defense methods and get rid of remaining vulnerabilities.”

During the competition, collective participant results yielded two key findings:

  1. Many classic techniques for mitigating backdoor impacts can overcorrect, where they “unlearn” key elements of the code, resulting in low model performance as they normally ignore measuring the impact on the poisoned accuracy, a novel metric proposed and highlighted throughout the IEEE TRC’22.
  2. Many existing techniques are of low generalizability, i.e., some methods are only effective on certain data sets or specific machine learning model architectures.

These findings point to the fact that for the time being, a generalized approach to mitigating attacks on neural networks is not advisable. Zeng emphasized the urgent need for a comprehensive AI security solution: “As we continue to witness the widespread impact of pre-trained foundation models on our daily lives, ensuring the security of these systems becomes increasingly critical. We hope that the insights gleaned from this competition, coupled with the release of the benchmark, will galvanize the community to develop more robust and adaptable security measures for AI systems.”

“As the world becomes more dependent on AI and machine learning, it is important to deal with the security and privacy issues that these technologies bring up,” said Qiu. “The IEEE TRC ’22 competition for EDISP has made a big difference in this area. I’d like to offer a special thanks to my colleagues on the steering committee—Professors Ruoxi Jia from Virginia Tech, Neil Gong from Duke, Tianwei Zhang from Nanyang Technological University, Shu-Tao Xia from Tsinghua University, and Bo Li from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign—for their help and support.”

Ideas and insights coming out of the event, along with the public benchmark data, will help make the future of machine learning and artificial intelligence safer and more dependable. The team plans to run the competition for a second year, and those findings will further strengthen the security parameters of neural networks.

“This is precisely the kind of work we want the Emerging Technology Fund to fuel,” said Nita Patel, 2023 IEEE Computer Society President. “It goes a long way toward bolstering iterative developments that will strengthen the security of machine learning and AI platforms as the technologies advance.”

For more information about the Emerging Technology Grants Program overall, visit

About IEEE Trojan Removal Competition

The IEEE TRC’22 aims to encourage the development of innovative end-to-end neural network backdoor removal techniques to counter backdoor attacks. For more information, visit

 About IEEE Computer Society
The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s home for computer science, engineering, and technology. A global leader in providing access to computer science research, analysis, and information, the IEEE Computer Society offers a comprehensive array of unmatched products, services, and opportunities for individuals at all stages of their professional careers. Known as the premier organization that empowers the people who drive technology, the IEEE Computer Society offers international conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a unique digital library, and training programs. Visit for more information.