Samira_Khorshidi_Dissertation.pdf (4.64 MB)
Download file

Adversarial attacks and defense mechanisms to improve robustness of deep temporal point processes

Download (4.64 MB)
posted on 08.09.2022, 17:00 authored by Samira KhorshidiSamira Khorshidi

Temporal point processes (TPP) are mathematical approaches for modeling asynchronous event sequences by considering the temporal dependency of each event on past events and its instantaneous rate. Temporal point processes can model various problems, from earthquake aftershocks, trade orders, gang violence, and reported crime patterns, to network analysis, infectious disease transmissions, and virus spread forecasting. In each of these cases, the entity's behavior with the corresponding information is noted over time as an asynchronous event sequence, and the analysis is done using temporal point processes, which provides a means to define the generative mechanism of the sequence of events and ultimately predict events and investigate causality.

Among point processes, Hawkes process as a stochastic point process is able to model a wide range of contagious and self-exciting patterns. One of Hawkes process's well-known applications is predicting the evolution of viral processes on networks, which is an important problem in biology, the social sciences, and the study of the Internet. In existing works, mean-field analysis based upon degree distribution is used to predict viral spreading across networks of different types. However, it has been shown that degree distribution alone fails to predict the behavior of viruses on some real-world networks. Recent attempts have been made to use assortativity to address this shortcoming. This thesis illustrates how the evolution of such a viral process is sensitive to the underlying network's structure. 

In Chapter 3, we show that adding assortativity does not fully explain the variance in the spread of viruses for a number of real-world networks. We propose using the graphlet frequency distribution combined with assortativity to explain variations in the evolution of viral processes across networks with identical degree distribution. Using a data-driven approach, by coupling predictive modeling with viral process simulation on real-world networks, we show that simple regression models based on graphlet frequency distribution can explain over 95\% of the variance in virality on networks with the same degree distribution but different network topologies. Our results highlight the importance of graphlets and identify a small collection of graphlets that may have the most significant influence over the viral processes on a network.

Due to the flexibility and expressiveness of deep learning techniques, several neural network-based approaches have recently shown promise for modeling point process intensities. However, there is a lack of research on the possible adversarial attacks and the robustness of such models regarding adversarial attacks and natural shocks to systems. Furthermore, while neural point processes may outperform simpler parametric models on in-sample tests, how these models perform when encountering adversarial examples or sharp non-stationary trends remains unknown. 

In Chapter 4, we propose several white-box and black-box adversarial attacks against deep temporal point processes. Additionally, we investigate the transferability of white-box adversarial attacks against point processes modeled by deep neural networks, which are considered a more elevated risk. Extensive experiments confirm that neural point processes are vulnerable to adversarial attacks. Such a vulnerability is illustrated both in terms of predictive metrics and the effect of attacks on the underlying point process's parameters. Expressly, adversarial attacks successfully transform the temporal Hawkes process regime from sub-critical to into a super-critical and manipulate the modeled parameters that is considered a risk against parametric modeling approaches. Additionally, we evaluate the vulnerability and performance of these models in the presence of non-stationary abrupt changes, using the crimes and Covid-19 pandemic dataset as an example.

 Considering the security vulnerability of deep-learning models, including deep temporal point processes, to adversarial attacks, it is essential to ensure the robustness of the deployed algorithms that is despite the success of deep learning techniques in modeling temporal point processes.


In Chapter 5, we study the robustness of deep temporal point processes against several proposed adversarial attacks from the adversarial defense viewpoint. Specifically, we investigate the effectiveness of adversarial training using universal adversarial samples in improving the robustness of the deep point processes. Additionally, we propose a general point process domain-adopted (GPDA) regularization, which is strictly applicable to temporal point processes, to reduce the effect of adversarial attacks and acquire an empirically robust model. In this approach, unlike other computationally expensive approaches, there is no need for additional back-propagation in the training step, and no further network is required. Ultimately, we propose an adversarial detection framework that has been trained in the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) manner and solely on clean training data. 

Finally, in Chapter 6, we discuss implications of the research and future research directions.


NSF SCC-1737585

NSF SES-1343123

NSF ATD-1737996

NSF ATD-1737925


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Computer Science

Campus location


Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

George O. Mohler

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Mohammad Al Hasan

Additional Committee Member 2

Rajeev R. Raje

Additional Committee Member 3

Arjan Durresi