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An Experimental Study of Byzantine-Robust Aggregation Schemes in Federated Learning
  • Shenghui Li ,
  • Cheuk Han Edith Ngai ,
  • Thiemo Voigt
Shenghui Li
Uppsala University, Uppsala University

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Cheuk Han Edith Ngai
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Thiemo Voigt
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Byzantine-robust federated learning aims at mitigating Byzantine failures during the federated training process, where malicious participants (known as Byzantine clients) may upload arbitrary local updates to the central server in order to degrade the performance of the global model. In recent years, several robust aggregation schemes have been proposed to defend against malicious updates from Byzantine clients and improve the robustness of federated learning. These solutions were claimed to be Byzantine-robust, under certain assumptions. Other than that, new attack strategies are emerging, striving to circumvent the defense schemes. However, there is a lack of systematical comparison and empirical study thereof. In this paper, we conduct an experimental study of Byzantine-robust aggregation schemes under different attacks using two popular algorithms in federated learning, FedSGD and FedAvg. We first survey existing Byzantine attack strategies, as well as Byzantine-robust aggregation schemes that aim to defend against the Byzantine attacks. We also propose a new scheme, ClippedClustering, to enhance the robustness of a clustering-based scheme by automatically clipping the updates. Then we provide an experimental evaluation of eight aggregation schemes in the scenario of five different Byzantine attacks. Our experimental results show that these aggregation schemes sustain relatively high accuracy in some cases, but they are not effective in all cases. In particular, our proposed ClippedClustering successfully defends against most attacks under independent and identically distributed (IID) local datasets. However, when the local datasets are Non-IID, the performance of all the aggregation schemes significantly decreases. With Non-IID data, some of these aggregation schemes fail even in the complete absence of Byzantine clients. Based on our experimental study, we conclude that the robustness of all the aggregation schemes is limited, highlighting the need for new defense strategies, in particular for Non-IID datasets.
2023Published in IEEE Transactions on Big Data on pages 1-13. 10.1109/TBDATA.2023.3237397