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# Adversarial robustness of VAEs through the lens of local geometry

*Proceedings of The 26th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics*, PMLR 206:8954-8967, 2023.

#### Abstract

In an unsupervised attack on variational autoencoders (VAEs), an adversary finds a small perturbation in an input sample that significantly changes its latent space encoding, thereby compromising the reconstruction for a fixed decoder. A known reason for such vulnerability is the distortions in the latent space resulting from a mismatch between approximated latent posterior and a prior distribution. Consequently, a slight change in an input sample can move its encoding to a low/zero density region in the latent space resulting in an unconstrained generation. This paper demonstrates that an optimal way for an adversary to attack VAEs is to exploit a directional bias of a stochastic pullback metric tensor induced by the encoder and decoder networks. The pullback metric tensor of an encoder measures the change in infinitesimal latent volume from an input to a latent space. Thus, it can be viewed as a lens to analyse the effect of input perturbations leading to latent space distortions. We propose robustness evaluation scores using the eigenspectrum of a pullback metric tensor. Moreover, we empirically show that the scores correlate with the robustness parameter $\beta$ of the $\beta-$VAE. Since increasing $\beta$ also degrades reconstruction quality, we demonstrate a simple alternative using mixup training to fill the empty regions in the latent space, thus improving robustness with improved reconstruction.