A Trembling House of Cards? Mapping Adversarial Attacks against Language Agents


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Language agents powered by large language models (LLMs) have seen exploding development. Their capability of using language as a vehicle for thought and communication lends an incredible level of flexibility and versatility. People have quickly capitalized on this capability to connect LLMs to a wide range of external components and environments: databases, tools, the Internet, robotic embodiment, etc. Many believe an unprecedentedly powerful automation technology is emerging. However, new automation technologies come with new safety risks, especially for intricate systems like language agents. There is a surprisingly large gap between the speed and scale of their development and deployment and our understanding of their safety risks. Are we building a house of cards? In this position paper, we present the first systematic effort in mapping adversarial attacks against language agents. We first present a unified conceptual framework for agents with three major components: Perception, Brain, and Action. Under this framework, we present a comprehensive discussion and propose 12 potential attack scenarios against different components of an agent, covering different attack strategies (e.g., input manipulation, adversarial demonstrations, jailbreaking, backdoors). We also draw connections to successful attack strategies previously applied to LLMs. We emphasize the urgency to gain a thorough understanding of language agent risks before their widespread deployment.
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