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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 11, 2025
  2. Visual Question Answering (VQA) is a fundamental task in computer vision and natural language process fields. Although the “pre-training & finetuning” learning paradigm significantly improves the VQA performance, the adversarial robustness of such a learning paradigm has not been explored. In this paper, we delve into a new problem: using a pre-trained multimodal source model to create adversarial image-text pairs and then transferring them to attack the target VQA models. Correspondingly, we propose a novel VQATTACK model, which can iteratively generate both im- age and text perturbations with the designed modules: the large language model (LLM)-enhanced image attack and the cross-modal joint attack module. At each iteration, the LLM-enhanced image attack module first optimizes the latent representation-based loss to generate feature-level image perturbations. Then it incorporates an LLM to further enhance the image perturbations by optimizing the designed masked answer anti-recovery loss. The cross-modal joint attack module will be triggered at a specific iteration, which updates the image and text perturbations sequentially. Notably, the text perturbation updates are based on both the learned gradients in the word embedding space and word synonym-based substitution. Experimental results on two VQA datasets with five validated models demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed VQATTACK in the transferable attack setting, compared with state-of-the-art baselines. This work revealsa significant blind spot in the “pre-training & fine-tuning” paradigm on VQA tasks. The source code can be found in the link

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