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The standard assumption of identically distributed training and test data is violated when the test data are generated in response to the presence of a predictive model. This becomes apparent, for example, in the context of email spam filtering. Here, email service providers employ spam filters, and spam senders engineer campaign templates to achieve a high rate of successful deliveries despite the filters. We model the interaction between the learner and the data generator as a static game in which the cost functions of the learner and the data generator are not necessarily antagonistic. We identify conditions under which this prediction game has a unique Nash equilibrium and derive algorithms that find the equilibrial prediction model. We derive two instances, the Nash logistic regression and the Nash support vector machine, and empirically explore their properties in a case study on email spam filtering.

In order to evade detection by network-traffic analysis, a growing proportion of malware uses the encrypted HTTPS protocol. We explore the problem of detecting malware on client computers based on HTTPS traffic analysis. In this setting, malware has to be detected based on the host IP address, ports, timestamp, and data volume information of TCP/IP packets that are sent and received by all the applications on the client. We develop a scalable protocol that allows us to collect network flows of known malicious and benign applications as training data and derive a malware-detection method based on a neural networks and sequence classification. We study the method's ability to detect known and new, unknown malware in a large-scale empirical study.

We address classification problems for which the training instances are governed by an input distribution that is allowed to differ arbitrarily from the test distribution-problems also referred to as classification under covariate shift. We derive a solution that is purely discriminative: neither training nor test distribution are modeled explicitly. The problem of learning under covariate shift can be written as an integrated optimization problem. Instantiating the general optimization problem leads to a kernel logistic regression and an exponential model classifier for covariate shift. The optimization problem is convex under certain conditions; our findings also clarify the relationship to the known kernel mean matching procedure. We report on experiments on problems of spam filtering, text classification, and landmine detection.

We study prediction problems in which the conditional distribution of the output given the input varies as a function of task variables which, in our applications, represent space and time. In varying-coefficient models, the coefficients of this conditional are allowed to change smoothly in space and time; the strength of the correlations between neighboring points is determined by the data. This is achieved by placing a Gaussian process (GP) prior on the coefficients. Bayesian inference in varying-coefficient models is generally intractable. We show that with an isotropic GP prior, inference in varying-coefficient models resolves to standard inference for a GP that can be solved efficiently. MAP inference in this model resolves to multitask learning using task and instance kernels. We clarify the relationship between varying-coefficient models and the hierarchical Bayesian multitask model and show that inference for hierarchical Bayesian multitask models can be carried out efficiently using graph-Laplacian kernels. We explore the model empirically for the problems of predicting rent and real-estate prices, and predicting the ground motion during seismic events. We find that varying-coefficient models with GP priors excel at predicting rents and real-estate prices. The ground-motion model predicts seismic hazards in the State of California more accurately than the previous state of the art.

Evaluating the quality of ranking functions is a core task in web search and other information retrieval domains. Because query distributions and item relevance change over time, ranking models often cannot be evaluated accurately on held-out training data. Instead, considerable effort is spent on manually labeling the relevance of query results for test queries in order to track ranking performance. We address the problem of estimating ranking performance as accurately as possible on a fixed labeling budget. Estimates are based on a set of most informative test queries selected by an active sampling distribution. Query labeling costs depend on the number of result items as well as item-specific attributes such as document length. We derive cost-optimal sampling distributions for the commonly used performance measures Discounted Cumulative Gain and Expected Reciprocal Rank. Experiments on web search engine data illustrate significant reductions in labeling costs.

Learning to control a structured-prediction decoder for detection of HTTP-layer DDoS attackers
(2016)

We focus on the problem of detecting clients that attempt to exhaust server resources by flooding a service with protocol-compliant HTTP requests. Attacks are usually coordinated by an entity that controls many clients. Modeling the application as a structured-prediction problem allows the prediction model to jointly classify a multitude of clients based on their cohesion of otherwise inconspicuous features. Since the resulting output space is too vast to search exhaustively, we employ greedy search and techniques in which a parametric controller guides the search. We apply a known method that sequentially learns the controller and the structured-prediction model. We then derive an online policy-gradient method that finds the parameters of the controller and of the structured-prediction model in a joint optimization problem; we obtain a convergence guarantee for the latter method. We evaluate and compare the various methods based on a large collection of traffic data of a web-hosting service.

Traditional probabilistic seismic-hazard analysis as well as the estimation of ground-motion models (GMMs) is based on the ergodic assumption, which means that the distribution of ground motions over time at a given site is the same as their spatial distribution over all sites for the same magnitude, distance, and site condition. With a large increase in the number of recorded ground-motion data, there are now repeated observations at given sites and from multiple earthquakes in small regions, so that assumption can be relaxed. We use a novel approach to develop a nonergodic GMM, which is cast as a varying-coefficient model (VCM). In this model, the coefficients are allowed to vary by geographical location, which makes it possible to incorporate effects of spatially varying source, path, and site conditions. Hence, a separate set of coefficients is estimated for each source and site coordinate in the data set. The coefficients are constrained to be similar for spatially nearby locations. This is achieved by placing a Gaussian process prior on the coefficients. The amount of correlation is determined by the data. The spatial correlation structure of the model allows one to extrapolate the varying coefficients to a new location and trace the corresponding uncertainties. The approach is illustrated with the Next Generation Attenuation-West2 data set, using only Californian records. The VCM outperforms a traditionally estimated GMM in terms of generalization error and leads to a reduction in the aleatory standard deviation by similar to 40%, which has important implications for seismic-hazard calculations. The scaling of the model with respect to its predictor variables such as magnitude and distance is physically plausible. The epistemic uncertainty associated with the predicted ground motions is small in places where events or stations are close and large where data are sparse.