Huggingface: security vulnerability?


Anyone who’s done any AI work is familiar with Huggingface. They are a repository of trained AI models and maintainer of AI libraries and services that have helped push forward AI research. It is now considered standard practice for research teams with something to boast to publish their models to Huggingface for all to embrace. This culture of open sharing has helped the field make its impressive strides in recent years and helped make Huggingface a “center” in that community.

However, this ease of use and availability of almost every publicly accessible model under the sun comes with a price. Because many AI models require additional assets as well as the execution of code to properly initialize, Huggingface’s own tooling could become a vulnerability. Aware of this, Huggingface has instituted their own security scanning procedures on models they host.

But security researchers at JFrog have found that even with such measures, have identified a number of models that exploit gaps in Huggingface’s scanning which allow for remote code execution. One example model they identified baked into a Pytorch model a “phone home” functionality which would initiate a secure connection between the server running the AI model and another (potentially malicious) computer (seemingly based in Korea).

The JFrog researchers were also able to demonstrate that they could upload models which would allow them to execute other arbitrary Python code which would not be flagged by Huggingface’s security scans.

While I think it’s a long way from suggesting that Huggingface is some kind of security cesspool, the research reminds us that so long as a connected system is both popular and versatile, there will always be the chance for security risk, and it’s important to keep that in mind.

Discover more from Benjamin Tseng

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading