Lotto: Secure Participant Selection against Adversarial Servers in Federated Learning


Zhifeng Jiang and Peng Ye, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Shiqi He, University of Michigan; Wei Wang, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Ruichuan Chen, Nokia Bell Labs; Bo Li, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology


In Federated Learning (FL), common privacy-enhancing techniques, such as secure aggregation and distributed differential privacy, rely on the critical assumption of an honest majority among participants to withstand various attacks. In practice, however, servers are not always trusted, and an adversarial server can strategically select compromised clients to create a dishonest majority, thereby undermining the system's security guarantees. In this paper, we present Lotto, an FL system that addresses this fundamental, yet underexplored issue by providing secure participant selection against an adversarial server. Lotto supports two selection algorithms: random and informed. To ensure random selection without a trusted server, Lotto enables each client to autonomously determine their participation using verifiable randomness. For informed selection, which is more vulnerable to manipulation, Lotto approximates the algorithm by employing random selection within a refined client pool. Our theoretical analysis shows that Lotto effectively aligns the proportion of server-selected compromised participants with the base rate of dishonest clients in the population. Large-scale experiments further reveal that Lotto achieves time-to-accuracy performance comparable to that of insecure selection methods, indicating a low computational overhead for secure selection.

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