Curse of Dimensionality on Randomized Smoothing for Certifiable Robustness

Part of Proceedings of the International Conference on Machine Learning 1 pre-proceedings (ICML 2020)

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Aounon Kumar, Alexander Levine, Tom Goldstein, Soheil Feizi


Randomized smoothing, using just a simple isotropic Gaussian distribution, has been shown to produce good robustness guarantees against $\ell_2$-norm bounded adversaries. In this work, we show that extending the smoothing technique to defend against other attack models can be challenging, especially in the high-dimensional regime. In particular, for a vast class of i.i.d.~smoothing distributions, we prove that the largest $\ell_p$-radius that can be certified decreases as $O(1/d^{\frac{1}{2} - \frac{1}{p}})$ with dimension $d$ for $p > 2$. Notably, for $p \geq 2$, this dependence on $d$ is no better than that of the $\ell_p$-radius that can be certified using isotropic Gaussian smoothing, essentially putting a matching lower bound on the robustness radius. When restricted to {\it generalized} Gaussian smoothing, these two bounds can be shown to be within a constant factor of each other in an asymptotic sense, establishing that Gaussian smoothing provides the best possible results, up to a constant factor, when $p \geq 2$. We present experimental results on CIFAR to validate our theory. For other smoothing distributions, such as, a uniform distribution within an $\ell_1$ or an $\ell_\infty$-norm ball, we show upper bounds of the form $O(1 / d)$ and $O(1 / d^{1 - \frac{1}{p}})$ respectively, which have an even worse dependence on $d$.