Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) 2022

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Closing the Loophole: Rethinking Reconstruction Attacks in Federated Learning from a Privacy Standpoint

Federated Learning was deemed as a private distributed learning framework due to the separation of data from the central server. However, recent works have shown that privacy attacks can extract various forms of private information from legacy federated learning. Previous literature describe differential privacy to be effective against membership inference attacks and attribute inference attacks, but our experiments show them to be vulnerable against reconstruction attacks. To understand this outcome, we execute a systematic study of privacy attacks from the standpoint of privacy. The privacy characteristics that reconstruction attacks infringe are different from other privacy attacks, and we suggest that privacy breach occurred at different levels. From our study, reconstruction attack defense methods entail heavy computation or communication costs. To this end, we propose Fragmented Federated Learning (FFL), a lightweight solution against reconstruction attacks. This framework utilizes a simple yet novel gradient obscuring algorithm based on a newly proposed concept called the global gradient and determines which layers are safe for submission to the server. We show empirically in diverse settings that our framework improves practical data privacy of clients in federated learning with an acceptable performance trade-off without increasing communication cost. We aim to provide a new perspective to privacy in federated learning and hope this privacy differentiation can improve future privacy-preserving methods.

Seung Ho Na

Hyeong Gwon Hong

Junmo Kim

Seungwon Shin

Paper (ACM DL)



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