9 Common Types of Attacks on AI Systems

In the 21st century, we have been introduced to a rapidly evolving digital landscape. With the growing reliance on artificial intelligence (AI), we have been directed to a new era of unprecedented opportunities and transformative advancements. As AI systems become increasingly integrated into our daily lives, powering everything from self-driving cars to digital assistants like Open AI, their potential to enhance innovation, efficiency, and convenience is undeniable.

However, there has been a profound shift towards AI-driven solutions which brings to light a pressing concern. What are the vulnerabilities that these systems can harbor? As AI systems become more complex and interconnected, the importance of addressing AI security has never been more of an important matter. In this article, we will take a look into the intricacies of our reliance on AI, and explore the vulnerabilities within AI systems, by delving into the 10 Common Types of Attacks on AI Systems.

Table of Contents

Adversarial Attacks

Adversarial attacks on AI systems refer to deliberate attempts to manipulate the behavior of artificial intelligence models. This is accomplished by introducing carefully crafted input data to cause the model to make incorrect and undesirable predictions. These attacks at hand expose the vulnerabilities and limitations of AI algorithms, by highlighting potential weaknesses in their decision-making processes. The mechanism of adversarial attacks involves introducing small, imperceptible perturbations to input data that cause the AI model to produce incorrect outputs while remaining inconspicuous to human observers. The perturbations are carefully calculated to exploit the model’s sensitivity to minor changes in input.

A common technique for an adversarial attack is the Fast Gradient Sign Method (FGSM). An FGSM is a method that calculates the gradients of the model’s loss function concerning the input data and then adds or subtracts a fraction of these gradients from the input data. This perturbation is scaled by an epsilon value to control its magnitude.

Manipulating input data in AI attacks involves intentionally changing the input data fed into an AI system to deceive or exploit its decision-making process. When data is strategically modified the input data, attackers can cause AI models to produce inaccurate or unintended results. This technique is particularly concerning because it leverages the vulnerabilities of AI algorithms, highlighting potential weaknesses in their responses.

A deceptive misclassification attack is a type of adversarial attack aimed at causing an AI system, such as a classification model, to misclassify input data in a way that is intentionally deceptive. In this attack, the adversary manipulates the input data to generate an adversarial example that is classified differently by the AI system than it should be according to human perception.

For example, consider an AI system trained to classify images of birds into two classes: “robins” and “cardinals.” An attacker wants to create a deceptive misclassification attack by manipulating an image of a robin to make the AI system misclassify it as a cardinal. The attacker applies subtle modifications to the image, carefully crafting perturbations that trigger the model to make the wrong prediction. The AI system will then confidently classify it as a dog instead of a cat.

AI system attacks can have significant impacts on the performance and reliability of AI models. When AI models are exposed to adversarial attacks, their accuracy and trustworthiness can be compromised, leading to various negative consequences. We made a list of some of the some of the most significant impacts of AI system attacks.

  1. Reduced Accuracy
  2. Misclassification
  3. Vulnerability Exploitation
  4. Reduced of Trust
  5. Adversarial Robustness Generalization
  6. Adversarial Transferability
  7. Privacy Risks
  8. Unintended Behavior
  9. Data Poisoning Attacks

Data Poisoning Attacks

Data poisoning attacks involve injecting malicious or carefully crafted data into a dataset used for training machine learning models. The goal of such attacks is to compromise the model’s performance by subtly altering its learning process during training. Injected data is designed to deceive the model, causing it to make incorrect predictions or behave in unintended ways during inference. There are some serious consequences when these attacks occur across many different industries.

  • In the autonomous vehicles industry, poisoned sensor data could lead to incorrect decisions made by the AI and potentially dangerous situations.
  • Medical diagnosis A manipulated medical record could result in misdiagnoses or incorrect treatment recommendations.
  • In financial systems, malicious transactions could be inserted to manipulate fraud detection models.

Next, we will take a look at tainting training datasets through data poisoning attacks involves introducing malicious or compromised data into the dataset used to train machine learning models. This strategy aims to manipulate the learning process of the model by injecting biased, inaccurate, or deceptive examples. By doing so, attackers seek to compromise the model’s performance and make it produce incorrect predictions or undesirable outcomes during deployment. There are ways to defend against poisoning attacks that involve these strategies.

  • Data Validation: Thoroughly vetting and validating training data sources to prevent the inclusion of malicious examples.
  • Data Augmentation: Using data augmentation techniques can help diversify the dataset and make it more resilient against poison data.
  • Anomaly Detection: Employ anomaly detection mechanisms to identify unusual patterns and characteristics within the dataset.
  • Model Robustness: Designing models that are resilient to small deviations and unexpected inputs introduced by poison data.
  • Regular Reevaluation: Continuously monitoring and reevaluating model performance and accuracy to detect any signs of compromised behavior.

Biasing model behavior through data poisoning attacks involves manipulating the training data in such a way that the resulting machine learning model exhibits biased or skewed behavior during inference. This type of attack aims to introduce systematic biases into the model’s learned patterns, leading it to make unfair or discriminatory predictions on specific inputs.

  • There is a process attackers follow when carrying out these attacks. Attackers identify specific biases they want the model to exhibit, such as favoring one class over another or producing discriminatory outcomes.
  • Next attackers craft poison data by using malicious data points that are carefully generated or modified to enforce the desired bias. These poisoned examples are strategically designed to shift the model’s decision boundaries.
  • Now we reach the injection strategy, the Poison data is inserted into the training dataset alongside legitimate data. The goal is to influence the model’s learning process, making it adopt the introduced bias.
  • The machine learning model is now trained using the tainted dataset, which now includes biased examples. As the model learns from this data, it absorbs the bias present in the poison data.
  • Once deployed, the model may disproportionately favor certain classes or groups, leading to unfair predictions and potentially discriminatory behavior.

Data poisoning can have significant and wide-ranging consequences, particularly when it targets machine learning models and AI systems. These consequences can impact various aspects of data-driven decision-making, model performance, and the overall trustworthiness of AI technologies.

Model Inversion Attacks

Reverse-engineering AI models, specifically through model inversion attacks, involves the process of extracting sensitive or private information about the training data used to create a machine learning model. Model inversion attacks exploit the outputs of a trained model to infer information about the inputs that were used during training, effectively “inverting” the model’s behavior to reveal potentially confidential details. Implications from these attacks result in:

  • Privacy Breaches
  • Intellectual Property Theft
  • Vulnerability to Adversarial Inputs

Model inversion attacks, involve leveraging the outputs of a machine learning model to infer private or confidential details about the inputs that were used during the model’s training. What model inversion attacks do is exploit the discrepancies between a model’s outputs and the underlying data distribution to reverse-engineer and infer information that should ideally remain undisclosed.

Model inversion attacks pose real privacy concerns and serious implications in the context of machine learning and AI systems. These attacks include things like data leakage. This is where a model inversion attack leads to the inadvertent leakage of sensitive information. Another is user profiling, an attacker can build detailed profiles of individuals by inferring their attributes, behaviors, preferences, and activities from model outputs. This can lead to intrusive and comprehensive user profiling. Finally, a real privacy concern is the Security Risks involved. Extracted sensitive information can be used in social engineering, identity theft, or other malevolent activities, increasing security risks for individuals and organizations.

Membership Inference Attacks

Membership inference attacks involve attempting to determine whether specific data points were part of the training dataset used to train a machine learning model. These attacks exploit the model’s behavior to infer membership information about individual data points, revealing whether they were used during the model’s training process or not. The objective of these attacks is to breach the privacy of the training data and potentially expose sensitive information about the dataset. Below we talk about the implications that membership attacks process.

  • Data Privacy Violation – Attackers can determine if specific individual data points were used for model training, breaching data privacy even if the actual data points are not directly revealed.
  • Sensitive Information Exposure – When the membership is identified in the training data, attackers might infer sensitive information about individuals, leading to privacy breaches.
  • Model Overfitting Detection – Membership inference attacks can reveal if a model is overfitting to its training data, compromising the generalization capability of the model.
  • Trade Secret Exploitation: Competitors could use membership inference attacks to infer confidential training data, that potentially leads to intellectual property theft.

Membership inference attacks are a type of privacy attack that aims to determine whether a specific data sample was used to train a machine learning model. They pose significant privacy risks and can have various impacts on individuals and organizations. Some of the impacts of these privacy risks include data leakage, user distrust, and loss of competitive advantage. With data leakage, successful membership inference attacks reveal information about the composition of the training dataset, effectively leaking sensitive information that was meant to be kept confidential.

User distrust Is caused when individuals who use services or products powered by machine learning models might become distrustful of these systems if they learn that their data is not adequately protected. This can lead to lower user engagement and adoption of AI-powered technologies diminishing its use. The loss of competitive advantage comes from when organizations invest resources in collecting and curating high-quality training data to gain a competitive advantage through their machine learning models. Successful membership inference attacks could lead to the exposure of this valuable data, eroding their competitive edge.

Safeguarding user data from membership inference attacks requires a proactive and multi-faceted approach. It’s essential to combine technical solutions with ethical considerations and a commitment to continuous improvement in data privacy practices. Regular assessments of data handling procedures and model security are crucial to maintaining user trust and complying with evolving privacy regulations.

Evasion Attacks

Fooling AI systems during inference evasion attacks, also known as adversarial attacks, involves manipulating input data in such a way that the AI model’s predictions or classifications are intentionally misinformed. Adversarial attacks exploit the vulnerabilities and limitations of machine learning models, particularly neural networks, to produce incorrect or unintended outputs. Here are some of the common strategies that are used when fooling AI systems.

  1. Transferability – Attack one model and then transfer the adversarial samples to a different but similar model. Many adversarial samples are transferable across different models, highlighting shared weaknesses in model architectures.
  2. Adversarial Patch Attacks – These attacks add a carefully designed patch to an input image to deceive the model into making a misclassification.
  3. Defensive Bypass Attacks – Carefully analyze and exploit weaknesses in defensive mechanisms that were designed to fight off adversarial attacks

Evasion attacks, involve manipulating input data to exploit weaknesses in a machine learning model’s decision-making process. These attacks aim to cause the model to produce incorrect or unintended outputs by introducing carefully crafted perturbations to the input data. Exploiting decision-making weaknesses through evasion attacks can have various implications, from misclassification to compromising the integrity of the model’s predictions. To defend against evasion attacks it takes developing robust machine learning models, utilizing adversarial training, and implementing various mitigation techniques. As well as regular evaluation of model vulnerability to evasion attacks and staying informed about the latest research in adversarial machine learning are crucial to maintaining security.

Implications of evasion attacks include:

  • Legal and Ethical Issues – Incorrect decisions caused by evasion attacks might result in legal liabilities and ethical concerns if they lead to harm or violations of privacy rights.
  • Model Degradation – Continuous exposure to evasion attacks without proper mitigation measures can degrade a model’s performance over time, making it less reliable in real-world scenarios.
  • False Sense of Security – When a model is vulnerable to evasion attacks, developers and users might rely on its predictions without being aware of the potential risks, leading to a false sense of security.
  • Resource Wastage – Evasion attacks can cause unnecessary resource wastage as systems take actions based on incorrect predictions, requiring corrective measures to be taken.

Transfer Attacks

Transfer attacks, involve exploiting vulnerabilities in pre-trained models to create adversarial examples that can deceive other models. What attacks like these do is take advantage of the fact that adversarial examples generated for one model can often be effective against different models, even those with different architectures. This concept highlights shared weaknesses or blind spots in the decision boundaries of machine learning models. There are ways to mitigate transfer attacks from occurring here is a look at some methods how:

  • Adversarial Training – You can train models with adversarial examples so they can improve their robustness to transfer attacks.
  • Ensemble Approaches – Using ensemble models that combine predictions from multiple models can reduce the impact of transfer attacks.
  • Robust Model Design – Incorporating architectural and training techniques that enhance model robustness against adversarial attacks can mitigate transferability.

Transfer attacks that involve the propagation of malicious models refer to a scenario where adversarial examples generated for a model with vulnerabilities are used to create a new model to deploy for malicious purposes. Here, the transferability principle is leveraged to exploit the shared weaknesses across models, allowing attackers to create a new model that inherits the adversarial properties of the source model. An attacker can first do this by identifying a pre-trained model that is known to be vulnerable to adversarial attacks.

  • This model is chosen as the source model for generating adversarial examples. Next, adversarial examples are generated for the source model using techniques like FGSM or PGD. These examples are carefully designed to cause misclassification.
  • The attacker will then train a new model using the adversarial examples generated from the source model as part of the training data.
  • Since the adversarial examples that are crafted for the source model are used during training, the new model inherits the vulnerabilities and adversarial patterns of the source model.
  • Finally, the newly trained model now carries adversarial properties and can be deployed for malicious purposes, such as evasion attacks, security breaches, or deception.

Transfer attacks can facilitate the rapid spread of malicious behavior across different models and systems. These attacks leverage the transferability principle, which allows adversarial examples crafted for one model to deceive other models as well. This can lead to the swift propagation of erroneous decisions or malicious actions through a network of models. Some ways that they contribute to the spread of malicious behavior include exploiting vulnerabilities that are shared among different machine learning models, regardless of their architectures or training data. Or attackers automate the process of generating adversarial examples for a vulnerable source model and then use those examples to target other models.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal functioning of a computer system, network, or online service by overwhelming it with a flood of traffic from multiple sources. DDoS attacks can have significant impacts on AI systems hosted in cloud environments. DDoS attacks involve overwhelming a target system or network with a large volume of traffic, causing it to become unavailable to legitimate users. When attacks target AI systems in the cloud, they follow with consequences that affect service availability, performance, and user trust.

DDoS attacks are characterized by their ability to overwhelm targeted resources and are a favorite tool of cybercriminals seeking to disrupt operations, compromise security, and cause financial losses. First, the attackers compromise numerous computers, creating a network of bots under their control. These bots act as foot soldiers in the impending attack. Command and control (C&C) structure, attackers synchronize the bots to execute the attack simultaneously. What’s next comes a “traffic surge”. The botnet is commanded to unleash a massive surge of traffic towards the target, exploiting vulnerabilities and overloading resources.

Attackers will often target websites and online platforms, disrupting user experiences and causing financial losses. Targeting websites and online platforms is a common objective of DDoS attackers due to the potentially high impact on both users and the targeted organizations.

Here is a look at what a user will experience when these attacks occur:

  • Unavailability
  • Slow Performance
  • Poor User Engagement

Financial losses caused are in the following:

  • E-commerce
  • Adverse Impact on Reputation
  • Customer Churn
  • Remediation Costs
  • Regulatory Fines

Data Manipulation Attacks

Data manipulation attacks involve altering input data in a way that leads to incorrect decisions by a machine learning model. These attacks exploit the model’s susceptibility to subtle changes in input, causing it to make mistakes or produce inaccurate predictions. Data manipulation attacks can have serious consequences, especially in safety-critical applications like autonomous vehicles or medical diagnosis systems.

Objectives Attackers have included to:

  • Force the model to predict a specific wrong class.
  • Steer the model to predict a particular incorrect class.
  • Create inputs that lead to desired misclassifications.
  • Inject malicious data into the training set to degrade model performance.

Data attacks have implications for fraud detection and autonomous systems. When it comes to fraud detection one impact is an attacker’s ability to craft adversarial examples that resemble legitimate transactions but are designed to evade fraud detection algorithms. These inputs might bypass anomaly detection mechanisms and go undetected.

Another implication of data manipulation attacks on fraud detection is the occurrence of false negatives and positives. False negatives can label genuine fraud cases labeled as normal and false positives a legitimate transactions flagged as fraudulent. This compromises the system’s accuracy and impacts operational efficiency. Impacts in autonomous systems include dangerous bad-natured behavior where an attack tricks an autonomous system into recognizing benign objects as threats or vice versa, leading to incorrect responses, and causing confusion or harm to the passenger. This could lead to another big implication in public trust. Public trust in autonomous systems could deteriorate if they are perceived as vulnerable to manipulation. This could hinder their advancement.

Misuse of AI Assistants

With the rise of AI technology has introduced new possibilities for human-computer interaction, including chatbots and AI assistants. However, these tools are easily able to be manipulated for misuse.

AI can be misused in various ways, like spreading falsehoods, propagating scams, damaging the reputations of competitors in business manipulating chatbots of competitors to spread false claims, and just spreading flat-out lies to where users can intentionally manipulate chatbots to circulate misinformation.

Ensuring secure AI assistant behavior ensures secure behavior from AI assistants becomes more and more important as their role continues to expand in various aspects of our lives.

Some of the best ways we can secure the behavior of AI assistants include,

  • Using secure and encrypted communication protocols like HTTPS, to protect data transmitted from users to AI assistants from eavesdropping or tampering.
  • Managing SSL/TLS certificates to ensure the authenticity and security of communication channels.
  • Behavioral management techniques monitor interactions with AI assistants to detect unusual patterns or deviations from expected behavior and flag potential security breaches.

It is imperative to prioritize ethical considerations and ensure responsible deployment. Ethical concerns surrounding AI range from bias/fairness to transparency/accountability. To be responsible for deploying AI we can address bias in training data to prevent AI systems from perpetuating existing inequalities or making discriminatory decisions. As well as develop algorithms that treat all individuals fairly and equitably, regardless of factors such as gender, race, or socioeconomic status. To be transparent we need to communicate how AI systems make decisions and disclose the factors that influence their outcomes. Holding AI accountable is to ensure that if an AI system makes an incorrect decision there is a clear way to determine why it occurred and who is accountable.


As AI technology becomes more involved in our everyday lives, the importance of keeping it secure cannot be overstated. The rapid pace of advancements in AI capabilities brings forward a ton of new opportunities, but they also introduce new risks and vulnerabilities that demand our attention. The journey to secure AI is an ongoing one, requiring vigilance, innovation, and a commitment to ethical principles. By prioritizing security, collaborating across disciplines, and embracing emerging research directions, we can navigate through the challenges posed by AI’s potential to where we can create a future where AI serves as a force for positive change. All the while maintaining the trust, privacy, and security of its users.

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