2. Threats through use

2. Threats through use

2.0. Threats through use - introduction

Category: group of threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/threatsuse/

Threats through use take place through normal interaction with an AI model: providing input and receiving output. Many of these threats require experimentation with the model, which is referred to in itself as an Oracle attack.

Controls for threats through use:


Category: runtime information security control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/monitoruse/

Monitor use: Monitor the use of the model (input, date, time, user) by registering it in logs, so it can be used to reconstruct incidents, and made it part of the existing incident detection process - extended with AI-specific methods, including:

By adding details to logs on the version of the model used and the output, troubleshooting becomes easier.

Links to standards:

  • ISO 27002 Controls 8.15 Logging and 8.16 Monitoring activities. Gap: covers this control fully, with the particularity: monitoring needs to look for specific patterns of AI attacks (e.g. model attacks through use). The ISO 27002 control has no details on that.
  • ISO/IEC 42001 B.6.2.6 discusses AI system operation and monitoring. Gap: covers this control fully, but on a high abstraction level.
  • See OpenCRE. Idem


Category: runtime information security control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/ratelimit/

Rate limit: Limit the rate (frequency) of access to the model (e.g. API) - preferably per user.

Purpose: severely delay attackers trying many inputs to perform attacks through use (e.g. try evasion attacks or for model inversion).

Particularity: limit access not to prevent system overload but to prevent experimentation.

Remaining risk: this control does not prevent attacks that use low frequency of interaction (e.g. don’t rely on heavy experimentation)

Links to standards:

  • ISO 27002 has no control for this
  • See OpenCRE


Category: runtime information security control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/modelaccesscontrol/

Model access control: Securely limit allowing access to use the model to authorized users.

Purpose: prevent attackers that are not authorized to perform attacks through use.

Remaining risk: attackers may succeed in authenticating as an authorized user, or qualify as an authorized user, or bypass the access control through a vulnerability, or it is easy to become an authorized user (e.g. when the model is publicly available)

Links to standards:

2.1. Evasion - Model behaviour manipulation through use

Category: group of threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/evasion/

Evasion: fooling models with deceptive input data. In other words: an attacker provides input that has intentionally been designed to cause a machine learning model to behave in an unwanted way.

Impact: Integrity of model behaviour is affected, leading to issues from unwanted model output (e.g. failing fraud detection, decisions leading to safety issues, reputation damage, liability).

A category of such an attack involves small perturbations leading to a large (and false) modification of its outputs. Such modified inputs are often called adversarial examples. Evasion attacks can also be categorized into physical (e.g. changing the real world to influence for example a camera image) and digital (e.g. changing the digital image).

Example 1: slightly changing traffic signs so that self-driving cars may be fooled.

Example 2: through a special search process it is determined how a digital input image can be changed undetectably leading to a completely different classification.

Example 3: crafting an e-mail text by carefully choosing words to avoid triggering a spam detection algorithm.

Example 4: by altering a few words, an attacker succeeds in posting an offensive message on a public forum, despite a filter with a large language model being in place

AI models that take a prompt as input (e.g. GenAI) suffer from an additional threat where manipulative instructions are provided. This is typically referred to as direct prompt injection.

See MITRE ATLAS - Evade ML model

Controls for evasion:


Category: runtime datasciuence control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/detectoddinput/

Detect odd input: implement tools to detect whether input is odd: significantly different from the training data or even invalid - also called input validation - without knowledge on what malicious input looks like.

Purpose: Odd input can result in unwanted model behaviour because the model by definition has not seen this data before and will likely produce false results, whether the input is malicious or not. When detected, the input can be logged for analysis and optionally discarded. It is important to note that not all odd input will be malicious and not all malicious input will be odd. There are examples of adversarial input specifically crafted to bypass detection of odd input. Nevertheless, detecting odd input is critical to maintaining model integrity, addressing potential concept drift, and preventing adversarial attacks that may take advantage of model behaviors on out of distribution data.

Types of detecting odd input
Out-of-Distribution Detection (OOD), Novelty Detection (ND), Outlier Detection (OD), Anomaly Detection (AD), and Open Set Recognition (OSR) are all related and sometimes overlapping tasks that deal with unexpected or unseen data. However, each of these tasks has its own specific focus and methodology. In practical applications, the techniques used to solve the problems may be similar or the same. Which task or problem should be addressed and which solution is most appropriate also depends on the definition of in-distribution and out-of-distribution. We use an example of a machine learning system designed for a self-driving car to illustrate all these concepts.

Out-of-Distribution Detection (OOD) - the broad category of detecting odd input:
Identifying data points that differ significantly from the distribution of the training data. OOD is a broader concept that can include aspects of novelty, anomaly, and outlier detection, depending on the context.

Example: The system is trained on vehicles, pedestrians, and common animals like dogs and cats. One day, however, it encounters a horse on the street. The system needs to recognize that the horse is an out-of-distribution object.

Methods for detecting out-of-distribution (OOD) inputs incorporate approaches from outlier detection, anomaly detection, novelty detection, and open set recognition, using techniques like similarity measures between training and test data, model introspection for activated neurons, and OOD sample generation and retraining. Approaches such as thresholding the output confidence vector help classify inputs as in or out-of-distribution, assuming higher confidence for in-distribution examples. Techniques like supervised contrastive learning, where a deep neural network learns to group similar classes together while separating different ones, and various clustering methods, also enhance the ability to distinguish between in-distribution and OOD inputs. For more details, one can refer to the survey by Yang et al. and other resources on the learnability of OOD: here.

Outlier Detection (OD) - a form of OOD:
Identifying data points that are significantly different from the majority of the data. Outliers can be a form of anomalies or novel instances, but not all outliers are necessarily out-of-distribution.

Example: Suppose the system is trained on cars and trucks moving at typical city speeds. One day, it detects a car moving significantly faster than all the others. This car is an outlier in the context of normal traffic behavior.

Anomaly Detection (AD) - a form of OOD:
Identifying abnormal or irregular instances that raise suspicions by differing significantly from the majority of the data. Anomalies can be outliers, and they might also be out-of-distribution, but the key aspect is their significance in terms of indicating a problem or rare event.

Example: The system might flag a vehicle going the wrong way on a one-way street as an anomaly. It’s not just an outlier; it’s an anomaly that indicates a potentially dangerous situation.

An example of how to implement this is activation Analysis: Examining the activations of different layers in a neural network can reveal unusual patterns (anomalies) when processing an adversarial input. These anomalies can be used as a signal to detect potential attacks.

Open Set Recognition (OSR) - a way to perform Anomaly Detection):
Classifying known classes while identifying and rejecting unknown classes during testing. OSR is a way to perform anomaly detection, as it involves recognizing when an instance does not belong to any of the learned categories. This recognition makes use of the decision boundaries of the model.

Example: During operation, the system identifies various known objects such as cars, trucks, pedestrians, and bicycles. However, when it encounters an unrecognized object, such as a fallen tree, it must classify it as “unknown. Open set recognition is critical because the system must be able to recognize that this object doesn’t fit into any of its known categories.

Novelty Detection (ND) - OOD input that is recognized as not malicious:
OOD input data can sometimes be recognized as not malicious and relevant or of interest. The system can decide how to respond: perhaps trigger another use case, or log is specifically, or let the model process the input if the expectation is that it can generalize to produce a sufficiently accurate result.

Example: The system has been trained on various car models. However, it has never seen a newly released model. When it encounters a new model on the road, novelty detection recognizes it as a new car type it hasn’t seen, but understands it’s still a car, a novel instance within a known category.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards

  • ENISA Securing Machine Learning Algorithms Annex C: “Ensure that the model is sufficiently resilient to the environment in which it will operate.”


  • Hendrycks, Dan, and Kevin Gimpel. “A baseline for detecting misclassified and out-of-distribution examples in neural networks.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1610.02136 (2016). ICLR 2017.

  • Yang, Jingkang, et al. “Generalized out-of-distribution detection: A survey.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2110.11334 (2021).

  • Khosla, Prannay, et al. “Supervised contrastive learning.” Advances in neural information processing systems 33 (2020): 18661-18673.

  • Sehwag, Vikash, et al. “Analyzing the robustness of open-world machine learning.” Proceedings of the 12th ACM Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Security. 2019.


Category: runtime data science control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/detectadversarialinput/

Detect adversarial input: Implement tools to detect specific attack patterns in input or series of inputs (e.g. patches in images).

The main concepts of adversarial attack detectors include:

  • Statistical analysis of input series: Adversarial attacks often follow certain patterns, which can be analysed by looking at input on a per-user basis. For example to detect series of small deviations in the input space, indicating a possible attack such as a search to perform model inversion or an evasion attack. These attacks also typically have series of inputs with a general increase of confidence value. Another example: if inputs seem systematic (very random or very uniform or covering the entire input space) it may indicate a model theft throught use attack.
  • Statistical Methods: Adversarial inputs often deviate from benign inputs in some statistical metric and can therefore be detected. Examples are utilizing the Principal Component Analysis (PCA), Bayesian Uncertainty Estimation (BUE) or Structural Similarity Index Measure (SSIM). These techniques differentiate from statistical analysis of input series, as these statistical detectors decide if a sample is adversarial or not per input sample, such that these techniques are able to also detect transferred black box attacks.
  • Detection Networks: A detector network operates by analyzing the inputs or the behavior of the primary model to spot adversarial examples. These networks can either run as a preprocessing function or in parallel to the main model. To use a detector networks as a preprocessing function, it has to be trained to differentiate between benign and adversarial samples, which is in itself a hard task. Therefore it can rely on e.g. the original input or on statistical metrics. To train a detector network to run in parallel to the main model, typically the detector is trained to distinguish between benign and adversarial inputs from the intermediate features of the main model’s hidden layer. Caution: Adversarial attacks could be crafted to circumvent the detector network and fool the main model.
  • Input Distortion Based Techniques (IDBT): A function is used to modify the input to remove any adversarial data. The model is applied to both versions of the image, the original input and the modified version. The results are compared to detect possible attacks. See INPUTDISTORTION.
  • Detection of adversarial patches: These patches are localized, often visible modifications that can even be placed in the real world. The techniques mentioned above can detect adversarial patches, yet they often require modification due to the unique noise pattern of these patches, particularly when they are used in real-world settings and processed through a camera. In these scenarios, the entire image includes benign camera noise (camera fingerprint), complicating the detection of the specially crafted adversarial patches.

See also DETECTODDINPUT for detecting abnormal input which can be an indication of adversarialinput.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards

  • ENISA Securing Machine Learning Algorithms Annex C: “Implement tools to detect if a data point is an adversarial example or not”


  • Feature squeezing (IDBT) compares the output of the model against the output based on a distortion of the input that reduces the level of detail. This is done by reducing the number of features or reducing the detail of certain features (e.g. by smoothing). This approach is like INPUTDISTORTION, but instead of just changing the input to remove any adversarial data, the model is also applied to the original input and then used to compare it, as a detection mechanism.

  • MagNet and here

  • DefenseGAN and Goodfellow, I.; Pouget-Abadie, J.; Mirza, M.; Xu, B.; Warde-Farley, D.; Ozair, S.; Courville, A.; Bengio, Y. Generative adversarial networks. Commun. ACM 2020, 63, 139–144.

  • Local intrinsic dimensionality

  • Hendrycks, Dan, and Kevin Gimpel. “Early methods for detecting adversarial images.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1608.00530 (2016).

  • Kherchouche, Anouar, Sid Ahmed Fezza, and Wassim Hamidouche. “Detect and defense against adversarial examples in deep learning using natural scene statistics and adaptive denoising.” Neural Computing and Applications (2021): 1-16.

  • Roth, Kevin, Yannic Kilcher, and Thomas Hofmann. “The odds are odd: A statistical test for detecting adversarial examples.” International Conference on Machine Learning. PMLR, 2019.

  • Bunzel, Niklas, and Dominic Böringer. “Multi-class Detection for Off The Shelf transfer-based Black Box Attacks.” Proceedings of the 2023 Secure and Trustworthy Deep Learning Systems Workshop. 2023.

  • Xiang, Chong, and Prateek Mittal. “Detectorguard: Provably securing object detectors against localized patch hiding attacks.” Proceedings of the 2021 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. 2021.

  • Bunzel, Niklas, Ashim Siwakoti, and Gerrit Klause. “Adversarial Patch Detection and Mitigation by Detecting High Entropy Regions.” 2023 53rd Annual IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks Workshops (DSN-W). IEEE, 2023.

  • Liang, Bin, Jiachun Li, and Jianjun Huang. “We can always catch you: Detecting adversarial patched objects with or without signature.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2106.05261 (2021).

  • Chen, Zitao, Pritam Dash, and Karthik Pattabiraman. “Jujutsu: A Two-stage Defense against Adversarial Patch Attacks on Deep Neural Networks.” Proceedings of the 2023 ACM Asia Conference on Computer and Communications Security. 2023.

  • Liu, Jiang, et al. “Segment and complete: Defending object detectors against adversarial patch attacks with robust patch detection.” Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. 2022.

  • Metzen, Jan Hendrik, et al. “On detecting adversarial perturbations.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1702.04267 (2017).

  • Gong, Zhitao, and Wenlu Wang. “Adversarial and clean data are not twins.” Proceedings of the Sixth International Workshop on Exploiting Artificial Intelligence Techniques for Data Management. 2023.

  • Tramer, Florian. “Detecting adversarial examples is (nearly) as hard as classifying them.” International Conference on Machine Learning. PMLR, 2022.

  • Hendrycks, Dan, and Kevin Gimpel. “Early methods for detecting adversarial images.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1608.00530 (2016).

  • Feinman, Reuben, et al. “Detecting adversarial samples from artifacts.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1703.00410 (2017).


Category: development-time datascience control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/evasionrobustmodel/

Evastion-robust model: choose an evasion-robust model design, configuration and/or training approach to maximize resilience against evasion (Data science).

A robust model in the light of evasion is a model that does not display significant changes in output for minor changes in input. Adversarial examples are the name for inputs that represent input with an unwanted result, where the input is a minor change of an input that leads to a wanted reults.

In other words: if we interpret the model with its inputs as a “system” and the sensitivity to evasion attacks as the “system fault” then this sensitivity may also be interpreted as (local) lack of graceful degradation.

Reinforcing adversarial robustness is an experimental process where model robustness is measured in order to determine countermeasures. Measurement takes place by trying minor input deviations to detect meaningful outcome variations that undermine the model’s reliability. If these variations are undetectable to the human eye but can produce false or incorrect outcome descriptions, they may also significantly undermine the model’s reliability. Such cases indicate lack of model resilience to input variance resulting in sensitivity to evasion attacks and require detailed investigation.
Adversarial robustness (the senstitivity to adversarial examples) can be assessed with tools like IBM Adversarial Robustness Toolbox, CleverHans, or Foolbox.

Robustness issues can be addressed by:

  • Adversarial training - see TRAINADVERSARIAL
  • Increasing training samples for the problematic part of the input domain
  • Tuning/optimising the model for variance
  • Randomisation by injecting noise during training, causing the input space for correct classifications to grow. See also TRAINDATADISTORTION against data poisoning and OBFUSCATETRAININGDATA to minimize sensitive data through randomisation.
  • gradient masking: a technique employed to make training more efficient and defend machine learning models against adversarial attacks. This involves altering the gradients of a model during training to increase the difficulty of generating adversarial examples for attackers. Methods like adversarial training and ensemble approaches are utilized for gradient masking, but it comes with limitations, including computational expenses and potential in effectiveness against all types of attacks. See Article in which this was introduced.

Care must be taken when considering robust model designs, as security concerns have arisen about their effectiveness.

Links to standards:

  • ISO/IEC TR 24029 (Assessment of the robustness of neural networks) Gap: this standard discusses general robustness and does not discuss robustness against adversarial inputs explicitly.

  • ENISA Securing Machine Learning Algorithms Annex C: “Choose and define a more resilient model design”

  • ENISA Securing Machine Learning Algorithms Annex C: “Reduce the information given by the model”


  • Xiao, Chang, Peilin Zhong, and Changxi Zheng. “Enhancing Adversarial Defense by k-Winners-Take-All.” 8th International Conference on Learning Representations. 2020.

  • Liu, Aishan, et al. “Towards defending multiple adversarial perturbations via gated batch normalization.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2012.01654 (2020).

  • You, Zhonghui, et al. “Adversarial noise layer: Regularize neural network by adding noise.” 2019 IEEE International Conference on Image Processing (ICIP). IEEE, 2019.

  • Athalye, Anish, Nicholas Carlini, and David Wagner. “Obfuscated gradients give a false sense of security: Circumventing defenses to adversarial examples.” International conference on machine learning. PMLR, 2018.


Category: development-time data science control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/trainadversarial/

Train adversarial: Add adversarial examples to the training set to make the model more robust against evasion attacks. First, adversarial examples are generated, just like they would be generated for an evasion attack. By definition, the model produces the wrong output for those examples. By adding them to the training set with the right output, the model is in essence corrected. As a result it generalizes better. In other words, by training the model on adversarial examples, it learns to not overly rely on subtle patterns that might not generalize well, which are by the way similar to the patterns that poisoned data might introduce.

It is important to note that generating the adversarial examples creates significant training overhead, does not scale well with model complexity / input dimension, can lead to overfitting, and may not generalize well to new attack methods.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards
  • ENISA Securing Machine Learning Algorithms Annex C: “Add some adversarial examples to the training dataset”


  • For a general summary of adversarial training, see Bai et al.
  • Goodfellow, I.J.; Shlens, J.; Szegedy, C. Explaining and harnessing adversarial examples. arXiv 2014, arXiv:1412.6572.
  • Lyu, C.; Huang, K.; Liang, H.N. A unified gradient regularization family for adversarial examples. In Proceedings of the 2015 ICDM.
  • Papernot, N.; Mcdaniel, P. Extending defensive distillation. arXiv 2017, arXiv:1705.05264.
  • Vaishnavi, Pratik, Kevin Eykholt, and Amir Rahmati. “Transferring adversarial robustness through robust representation matching.” 31st USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 22). 2022.


Category: runtime datasciuence control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/inputdistortion/

Input distortion: Lightly modify the input with the intention to distort the adversarial attack causing it to fail, while maintaining sufficient model correctness. Modification can be done by e.g. adding noise (randomization), smoothing or JPEG compression.

Maintaining model correctness can be improved by performing multiple random modifications (e.g. randomized smoothing) to the input and then comparing the model output (e.g. best of three).

The security of these defenses often relies on gradient masking (sometimes called gradient obfuscation) when the functions are non-differentiable (shattered gradients). These defenses can be attacked by approximating the gradients, e.g., using BPDA. Systems that use defenses based on randomness to mask the gradients (stochastic gradients) can be attacked by combining the attack with EOT. A set of defense techniques called Random Transfomations (RT) defends neural networks by implementing enough randmoness that computing adversarial examples using EOT is computationally inefficient. This randomness is typically achieved by using a random subset of input transformations with random parameters. Since multiple transformations are applied to each input sample, the benign accuracy drops significantly, thus the network must be trained with the RT in place.

Note that black-box or closed-box attacks do not rely on the gradients and are therefore not affected by shattered gradients, as they do not use the gradients to calculate the attack. Black box attacks use only the input and the output of the model or whole AI system to calculate the adversarial input. For a more detailed discussion of these attacks see Closed-box evasion.

See DETECTADVERSARIALINPUT for an approach where the distorted input is used for detecting an adversarial attack.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards

  • ENISA Securing Machine Learning Algorithms Annex C: “Apply modifications on inputs”


  • Weilin Xu, David Evans, Yanjun Qi. Feature Squeezing: Detecting Adversarial Examples in Deep Neural Networks. 2018 Network and Distributed System Security Symposium. 18-21 February, San Diego, California.
  • Das, Nilaksh, et al. “Keeping the bad guys out: Protecting and vaccinating deep learning with jpeg compression.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1705.02900 (2017).
  • He, Warren, et al. “Adversarial example defense: Ensembles of weak defenses are not strong.” 11th USENIX workshop on offensive technologies (WOOT 17). 2017.
  • Xie, Cihang, et al. “Mitigating adversarial effects through randomization.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1711.01991 (2017).
  • Raff, Edward, et al. “Barrage of random transforms for adversarially robust defense.” Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. 2019.
  • Mahmood, Kaleel, et al. “Beware the black-box: On the robustness of recent defenses to adversarial examples.” Entropy 23.10 (2021): 1359.
  • Athalye, Anish, et al. “Synthesizing robust adversarial examples.” International conference on machine learning. PMLR, 2018.
  • Athalye, Anish, Nicholas Carlini, and David Wagner. “Obfuscated gradients give a false sense of security: Circumventing defenses to adversarial examples.” International conference on machine learning. PMLR, 2018.


Category: development-time data science control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/adversarialrobustdistillation/

Adversarial-robust distillation: defensive distillation involves training a student model to replicate the softened outputs of the teacher model, increasing the resilience of the student model to adversarial examples by smoothing the decision boundaries and making the model less sensitive to small perturbations in the input. Care must be taken when considering defensive distillation techniques, as security concerns have arisen about their effectiveness.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards

  • ENISA Securing Machine Learning Algorithms Annex C: “Choose and define a more resilient model design”


  • Papernot, Nicolas, et al. “Distillation as a defense to adversarial perturbations against deep neural networks.” 2016 IEEE symposium on security and privacy (SP). IEEE, 2016.

  • Carlini, Nicholas, and David Wagner. “Defensive distillation is not robust to adversarial examples.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1607.04311 (2016).

2.1.1. Closed-box evasion

Category: threat through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/closedboxevasion/

Black box or closed-box attacks are methods where an attacker crafts an input to exploit a model without having any internal knowledge or access to that model’s implementation, including code, training set, parameters, and architecture. The term “black box” reflects the attacker’s perspective, viewing the model as a ‘closed box’ whose internal workings are unknown. This approach often requires experimenting with how the model responds to various inputs, as the attacker navigates this lack of transparency to identify and leverage potential vulnerabilities. Since the attacker does not have access to the inner workings of the model, he cannot calculate the internal model gradients to efficiently create the adversarial inputs - in contrast to white-box or open-box attacks (see 2.1.2. Open-box evasion).

Black box attack strategies are:

  • Transferability-Based Attacks: Attackers can execute a transferability-based black box attack by first creating adversarial examples using a surrogate model, a copy or approximation of the closed-box target model, and then applying these adversarial examples to the target model. This approach leverages the concept of an open-box evasion attack, where the attacker utilizes the internals of a surrogate model to construct a successful attack. The goal is to create adversarial examples that will ‘hopefully’ transfer to the original target model, even though the surrogate may be internally different from the target. The likelihood of a successful transfer is generally higher when the surrogate model closely resembles the target model in terms of complexity and structure. However, it’s noted that even attacks developed using simpler surrogate models tend to transfer effectively. To maximize similarity and therefore the effectiveness of the attack, one approach is to reverse-engineer a version of the target model, creating a surrogate that mirrors the target as closely as possible. This strategy is grounded in the rationale that many adversarial examples are inherently transferable across different models, particularly when they share similar architectures or training data. This method of attack, including the creation of a surrogate model through model theft, is detailed in resources such as this article, which describes this approach in depth.

  • Query-Based Attacks: In query-based black box attacks, an attacker systematically queries the target model using carefully designed inputs and observes the resulting outputs to search for variations of input that lead to a false decision of the model. This approach enables the attacker to indirectly reconstruct or estimate the model’s decision boundaries, thereby facilitating the creation of inputs that can mislead the model. These attacks are categorized based on the type of output the model provides:

    • Desicion-based (or Label-based) attacks: where the model only reveals the top prediction label
    • Score-based attacks: where the model discloses a score (like a softmax score), often in the form of a vector indicating the top-k predictions.In research typically models which output the whole vector are evaluated, but the output could also be restricted to e.g. top-10 vector. The confidence scores provide more detailed feedback about how close the adversarial example is to succeeding, allowing for more precise adjustments. In a score-based scenario an attacker can for example approximate the gradient by evaluating the objective function values at two very close points.


  • Papernot, Nicolas, Patrick McDaniel, and Ian Goodfellow. “Transferability in machine learning: from phenomena to black-box attacks using adversarial samples.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1605.07277 (2016).

  • Papernot, Nicolas, et al. “Practical black-box attacks against machine learning.” Proceedings of the 2017 ACM on Asia conference on computer and communications security. 2017.

  • Demontis, Ambra, et al. “Why do adversarial attacks transfer? explaining transferability of evasion and poisoning attacks.” 28th USENIX security symposium (USENIX security 19). 2019.

  • Andriushchenko, Maksym, et al. “Square attack: a query-efficient black-box adversarial attack via random search.” European conference on computer vision. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2020.

  • Guo, Chuan, et al. “Simple black-box adversarial attacks.” International Conference on Machine Learning. PMLR, 2019.

  • Bunzel, Niklas, and Lukas Graner. “A Concise Analysis of Pasting Attacks and their Impact on Image Classification.” 2023 53rd Annual IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks Workshops (DSN-W). IEEE, 2023.

  • Chen, Pin-Yu, et al. “Zoo: Zeroth order optimization based black-box attacks to deep neural networks without training substitute models.” Proceedings of the 10th ACM workshop on artificial intelligence and security. 2017.

  • Guo, Chuan, et al. “Simple black-box adversarial attacks.” International Conference on Machine Learning. PMLR, 2019.

  • Andriushchenko, Maksym, et al. “Square attack: a query-efficient black-box adversarial attack via random search.” European conference on computer vision. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2020.


2.1.2. Open-box evasion

Category: threat through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/openboxevasion/

In open-box or white-box attacks, the attacker knows the architecture, parameters, and weights of the target model. Therefore, the attacker has the ability to create input data designed to introduce errors in the model’s predictions. These attacks may be targeted or untargeted. In a targeted attack, the attacker wants to force a specific prediction, while in an untargeted attack, the goal is to cause the model to make a false prediction. A famous example in this domain is the Fast Gradient Sign Method (FGSM) developed by Goodfellow et al. which demonstrates the efficiency of white-box attacks. FGSM operates by calculating a perturbation $p$ for a given image $x$ and it’s label $l$, following the equation $p = \varepsilon \textnormal{sign}(\nabla_x J(\theta, x, l))$, where $\nabla_x J(\cdot, \cdot, \cdot)$ is the gradient of the cost function with respect to the input, computed via backpropagation. The model’s parameters are denoted by $\theta$ and $\varepsilon$ is a scalar defining the perturbation’s magnitude. Even universal adversarial attacks, perturbations that can be applied to any input and result in a successful attack, or attacks against certified defenses are possible.

In contrast to white-box attacks, black-box attacks operate without direct access to the inner workings of the model and therefore without access to the gradients. Instead of exploiting detailed knowledge, black-box attackers must rely on output observations to infer how to effectively craft adversarial examples.



  • Goodfellow, Ian J., Jonathon Shlens, and Christian Szegedy. “Explaining and harnessing adversarial examples.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1412.6572 (2014).
  • Madry, Aleksander, et al. “Towards deep learning models resistant to adversarial attacks.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1706.06083 (2017).
  • Ghiasi, Amin, Ali Shafahi, and Tom Goldstein. “Breaking certified defenses: Semantic adversarial examples with spoofed robustness certificates.” arXiv preprint arXiv:2003.08937 (2020).
  • Hirano, Hokuto, and Kazuhiro Takemoto. “Simple iterative method for generating targeted universal adversarial perturbations.” Algorithms 13.11 (2020): 268.
  • Traffic signs
  • Panda images

2.1.3. Evasion after data poisoning

Category: threat through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/evasionafterpoison/

After training data has been poisoned (see data poisoning section), specific input (called backdoors or triggers) can lead to unwanted model output.

2.2. Sensitive data disclosure through use

Category: group of threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/disclosureuse/

Impact: Confidentiality breach of sensitive training data.

The model discloses sensitive training data or is abused to do so.

2.2.1. Sensitive data output from model

Category: threat through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/disclosureuseoutput/

The output of the model may contain sensitive data from the training set, for example a large language model (GenAI) generating output including personal data that was part of its training set. Furthermore, GenAI can output other types of sensitive data, such as copyrighted text or images(see Copyright). Once training data is in a GenAI model, original variations in access rights cannot be controled anymore. (OWASP for LLM 06)

The disclosure is caused by an unintentional fault of including this data, and exposed through normal use or through provocation by an attacker using the system. See MITRE ATLAS - LLM Data Leakage

Controls specific for sensitive data output from model:


Category: runtime information security control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/filtersensitivemodeloutput/

Filter sensitive model output: actively censor sensitive data by detecting it when possible (e.g. phone number).

A variation of this filtering is providing a GenAI model with instructions (e.g. in a system prompt) not to disclose certain data, which is susceptible to Direct prompt injection attacks.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards

2.2.2. Model inversion and Membership inference

Category: threat through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/modelinversionandmembership/

Model inversion (or data reconstruction) occurs when an attacker reconstructs a part of the training set by intensive experimentation during which the input is optimized to maximize indications of confidence level in the output of the model.

Membership inference is presenting a model with input data that identifies something or somebody (e.g. a personal identity or a portrait picture), and using any indication of confidence in the output to infer the presence of that something or somebody in the training set.


The more details a model is able to learn, the more it can store information on individual training set entries. If this happens more than necessary, this is called overfitting, which can be prevented by configuring smaller models.

Controls for Model inversion and membership inference:


Category: runtime data science control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/obscureconfidence/

Obscure confidence: exclude indications of confidence in the output, or round confidence so it cannot be used for optimization.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards


Category: development-time data science control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/smallmodel/

Small model: overfitting (storing individual training samples) can be prevented by keeping the model small so it is not able to store detail at the level of individual training set samples.

Links to standards:

  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards

2.3. Model theft through use

Category: threat through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/modeltheftuse/

Impact: Confidentiality breach of model parameters, which can result in intellectual model theft and/or allowing to perform model attacks on the stolen model that normally would be mitigated by rate limiting, access control, or detection mechanisms.

This attack is known as model stealing attack or model extraction attack or model exfiltration attack. It occurs when an attacker collects inputs and outputs of an existing model and uses those combinations to train a new model, in order to replicate the original model. Alternative ways of model theft are development time model theft and direct runtime model theft.



2.4. Failure or malfunction of AI-specific elements through use

Category: threat through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/denialmodelservice/

Description: specific input to the model leads to availabity issues (system being very slow or unresponsive, also called denial of service), typically caused by excessive resource usage. The failure occurs from frequency, volume, or the content of the input. See MITRE ATLAS - Denial of ML service.

Impact: The AI systems is unavailable, leading to issues with processes, organizations or individuals that depend on the AI system (e.g. business continuity issues, safety issues in process control, unavailability of services)

For example: A sponge attack or energy latency attack provides input that is designed to increase the computation time of the model, potentially causing a denial of service. See article on sponge examples



Category: runtime information security control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/dosinputvalidation/

Denial-of-service input validation: input validation and sanitization to reject or correct malicious (e.g. very large) content

Links to standards:


Category: runtime information security control for threats through use
Permalink: https://owaspai.org/goto/limitresources/

Limit resource usage for a single model input, to prevent resource overuse.

Links to standards:

  • ISO 27002 has no control for this, except for Monitoring (covered in Controls for threats through use)
  • Not covered yet in ISO/IEC standards