During the network reconnaissance process, attackers scan the network to gather information before
launching an attack. This is a good chance for defenders to use deception and disrupt the attacker’s
learning process. In this paper, we present an exploratory experiment to test the effectiveness of a
masking strategy (compared to a random masking strategy) to reduce the utility of attackers. A
total of 30 human participants (in the role of attackers) are randomly assigned to one of the two
experimental conditions: Optimal or Random (15 in each condition). Attackers appeared to be more
successful in launching attacks in the optimal condition compared to the random condition but the
total score of attackers was not different from the random masking strategy. Most importantly,
we found a generalized tendency to act according to the certainty bias (or risk aversion). These
observations will help to improve the current state-of-the-art masking algorithms of cyberdefense.
Background: The United States has been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19, accounting for approximately 30% of all global cases and deaths from the disease that have been reported as of May 20, 2020. We extended our agent-based model for COVID-19 transmission to study the effect of alternative lockdown and reopening policies on disease dynamics in Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. Specifically, for each state we simulated the spread of the disease had the state enforced its lockdown approximately one week earlier than it did. We also simulated Georgia's reopening plan under various levels of physical distancing if enacted in each state, making projections until June 15, 2020.
Methods: We used an agent-based SEIR model that uses population-specific age distribution, household structure, contact patterns, and comorbidity rates to perform tailored simulations for each region. The model was first calibrated to each state using publicly available COVID-19 death data as of April 23, then implemented to simulate given lockdown or reopening policies.
Results: Our model estimated that imposing lockdowns one week earlier could have resulted in hundreds fewer COVID-19-related deaths in the context of all three states. These estimates quantify the effect of early action, a key metric to weigh in developing prospective policies to combat a potential second wave of infection in each of these states. Further, when simulating Georgia’s plan to reopen select businesses as of April 27, our model found that a reopening policy that includes physical distancing to ensure no more than 25% of pre-lockdown contact rates at reopened businesses could allow limited economic activity to resume in any of the three states, while also eventually flattening the curve of COVID-19-related deaths by June 15, 2020.
Background: On March 24, India ordered a 3-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. While the lockdown has been effective, our model suggests that completely ending the lockdown after three weeks could have considerable adverse public health ramifications. We extend our individual-level model for COVID-19 transmission  to study the disease dynamics in India at the state level for Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to estimate the effect of further lockdown policies in each region. Specifically, we test policies which alternate between total lockdown and simple physical distancing to find "middle ground" policies that can provide social and economic relief as well as salutary population-level health effects. Methods: We use an agent-based SEIR model that uses population-specific age distribution, household structure, contact patterns, and comorbidity rates to perform tailored simulations for each region. The model is first calibrated to each region using publicly available COVID-19 death data, then implemented to simulate a range of policies. We also compute the basic reproduction number R0 and case documentation rate for both regions. Results: After the initial lockdown, our simulations demonstrate that even policies that enforce strict physical distancing while returning to normal activity could lead to widespread outbreaks in both states. However, "middle ground" policies that alternate weekly between total lockdown and physical distancing may lead to much lower rates of infection while simultaneously permitting some return to normalcy.
Recent research in cybersecurity has begun to develop active defense strategies using game-theoretic optimization of the allocation of limited defenses combined with deceptive signaling. These algorithms assume rational human behavior. However, human behavior in an online game designed to simulate an insider attack scenario shows that humans, playing the role of attackers, attack far more often than predicted under perfect rationality. We describe an instance-based learning cognitive model, built in ACT-R, that accurately predicts human performance and biases in the game. To improve defenses, we propose an adaptive method of signaling that uses the cognitive model to trace an individual’s experience in real time. We discuss the results and implications of this adaptive signaling method for personalized defense.
Applications of artificial intelligence for wildlife protection have focused on learning models of poacher behavior based on historical patterns. However, poachers' behaviors are described not only by their historical preferences, but also their reaction to ranger patrols. Past work applying machine learning and game theory to combat poaching have hypothesized that ranger patrols deter poachers, but have been unable to find evidence to identify how or even if deterrence occurs. Here for the first time, we demonstrate a measurable deterrence effect on real-world poaching data. We show that increased patrols in one region deter poaching in the next timestep, but poachers then move to neighboring regions. Our findings offer guidance on how adversaries should be modeled in realistic game-theoretic settings.
We propose and study Collapsing Bandits, a new restless multi-armed bandit (RMAB) setting in which each arm follows a binary-state Markovian process with a special structure: when an arm is played, the state is fully observed, thus “collapsing” any uncertainty, but when an arm is passive, no observation is made, thus allowing uncertainty to evolve. The goal is to keep as many arms in the “good” state as possible by planning a limited budget of actions per round. Such Collapsing Bandits are natural models for many healthcare domains in which health workers must simultaneously monitor patients and deliver interventions in a way that maximizes the health of their patient cohort. Our main contributions are as follows: (i) Building on the Whittle index technique for RMABs, we derive conditions under which the Collapsing Bandits problem is indexable. Our derivation hinges on novel conditions that characterize when the optimal policies may take the form of either “forward” or “reverse” threshold policies. (ii) We exploit the optimality of threshold policies to build fast algorithms for computing the Whittle index, including a closed form. (iii) We evaluate our algorithm on several data distributions including data from a real-world healthcare task in which a worker must monitor and deliver interventions to maximize their patients’ adherence to tuberculosis medication. Our algorithm achieves a 3-order-of-magnitude speedup compared to state-of-the-art RMAB techniques, while achieving similar performance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a public health crisis. Because SARS-CoV-2 can spread from individuals with pre-symptomatic, symptomatic, and asymptomatic infections, the re-opening of societies and the control of virus spread will be facilitated by robust surveillance, for which virus testing will often be central. After infection, individuals undergo a period of incubation during which viral titers are usually too low to detect, followed by an exponential growth of virus, leading to a peak viral load and infectiousness, and ending with declining viral levels and clearance. Given the pattern of viral load kinetics, we model surveillance effectiveness considering test sensitivities, frequency, and sample-to-answer reporting time. These results demonstrate that effective surveillance, including time to first detection and outbreak control, depends largely on frequency of testing and the speed of reporting, and is only marginally improved by high test sensitivity. We therefore conclude that surveillance should prioritize accessibility, frequency, and sample-to-answer time; analytical limits of detection should be secondary.
Solving optimization problems with unknown parameters often requires learning a predictive model to predict the values of the unknown parameters and then solving the problem using these values. Recent work has shown that including the optimization problem as a layer in the model training pipeline results in predictions of the unobserved parameters that lead to higher decision quality. Unfortunately, this process comes at a large computational cost because the optimization problem must be solved and differentiated through in each training iteration; furthermore, it may also sometimes fail to improve solution quality due to non-smoothness issues that arise when training through a complex optimization layer. To address these shortcomings, we learn a low-dimensional surrogate model of a large optimization problem by representing the feasible space in terms of meta-variables, each of which is a linear combination of the original variables. By training a low-dimensional surrogate model end-to-end, and jointly with the predictive model, we achieve: i) a large reduction in training and inference time; and ii) improved performance by focusing attention on the more important variables in the optimization and learning in a smoother space. Empirically, we demonstrate these improvements on a non-convex adversary modeling task, a submodular recommendation task and a convex portfolio optimization task.
Several social interventions (e.g., suicide and HIV prevention) leverage social network information to maximize outreach. Algorithmic influence maximization techniques have been proposed to aid with the choice of “influencers” (often referred to as “peer leaders”) in such interventions. Traditional algorithms for influence maximization have not been designed with social interventions in mind. As a result, they may disproportionately exclude minority communities from the benefits of the intervention. This has motivated research on fair influence maximization. Existing techniques require committing to a single domain-specific fairness measure. This makes it hard for a decision maker to meaningfully compare these notions and their resulting trade-offs across different applications. We address these shortcomings by extending the principles of cardinal welfare to the influence maximization setting, which is underlain by complex connections between members of different communities. We generalize the theory regarding these principles and show under what circumstances these principles can be satisfied by a welfare function. We then propose a family of welfare functions that are governed by a single inequity aversion parameter which allows a decision maker to study task-dependent trade-offs between fairness and total influence and effectively trade off quantities like influence gap by varying this parameter. We use these welfare functions as a fairness notion to rule out undesirable allocations. We show that the resulting optimization problem is monotone and submodular and can be solved with optimality guarantees. Finally, we carry out a detailed experimental analysis on synthetic and real social networks and should that high welfare can be achieved without sacrificing the total influence significantly. Interestingly we can show there exists welfare functions that empirically satisfy all of the principles.
Illegal wildlife poaching threatens ecosystems and drives endangered species toward extinction. However, efforts for wildlife protection are constrained by the limited resources of law enforcement agencies. To help combat poaching, the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS) is a machine learning pipeline that has been developed as a data-driven approach to identify areas at high risk of poaching throughout protected areas and compute optimal patrol routes. In this paper, we take an end-to-end approach to the data-to-deployment pipeline for anti-poaching. In doing so, we address challenges including extreme class imbalance (up to 1:200), bias, and uncertainty in wildlife poaching data to enhance PAWS, and we apply our methodology to three national parks with diverse characteristics. (i) We use Gaussian processes to quantify predictive uncertainty, which we exploit to improve robustness of our prescribed patrols and increase detection of snares by an average of 30%. We evaluate our approach on real-world historical poaching data from Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks in Uganda and, for the first time, Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia. (ii) We present the results of large-scale field tests conducted in Murchison Falls and Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary which confirm that the predictive power of PAWS extends promisingly to multiple parks. This paper is part of an effort to expand PAWS to 800 parks around the world through integration with SMART conservation software.
Background: On March 24, India ordered a 3-week nationwide lockdown in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. While the lockdown has been effective, our model suggests that completely ending the lockdown after three weeks could have considerable adverse public health ramifications. We extend our individual-level model for COVID-19 transmission  to study the disease dynamics in India at the state level for Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh to estimate the effect of further lockdown policies in each region. Specifically, we test policies which alternate between total lockdown and simple physical distancing to find "middle ground" policies that can provide social and economic relief as well as salutary population-level health effects.
Methods: We use an agent-based SEIR model that uses population-specific age distribution, household structure, contact patterns, and comorbidity rates to perform tailored simulations for each region. The model is first calibrated to each region using publicly available COVID-19 death data, then implemented to simulate a range of policies. We also compute the basic reproduction number R0 and case documentation rate for both regions.
Results: After the initial lockdown, our simulations demonstrate that even policies that enforce strict physical distancing while returning to normal activity could lead to widespread outbreaks in both states. However, "middle ground" policies that alternate weekly between total lockdown and physical distancing may lead to much lower rates of infection while simultaneously permitting some return to normalcy.
Network security games (NSGs) are widely used in security related domain to model the interaction between the attacker and the defender. However, due to the complex graph structure of the entire network, finding a Nash equilibrium even when the attacker is fully rational is not well-studied yet. There is no efficient algorithms known with valid guarantees. We identify two major issues of NSGs: i) non-linearity ii) correlation between edges. NSGs with non-linear objective function are usually hard to optimize, while correlated edges might create exponentially many strategies and impact the scalability. In this paper, we analyze the distortion of linear and non-linear formulations of NSGs with fully rational attacker. We provide theoretical bounds on these different formulations, which can quantify the approximation ratio between linear and non-linear assumption. This result can help us understand how much loss will the linearization incur in exchange for the scalability.
As machine learning models are increasingly being deployed in critical domains such as criminal justice and healthcare, there has been a growing interest in developing algorithms that are interpretable and fair. While there has been a lot of research on each of these topics in isolation, there has been little work on their intersection. In this paper, we present an empirical study for understanding the relationship between model interpretability and fairness. To this end, we propose a novel evaluation framework and outline appropriate evaluation metrics to determine this relationship across various classes of models in both synthetic and real world datasets.