Publications / SAND Report

SAGE Intrusion Detection System: Sensitivity Analysis Guided Explainability for Machine Learning

Smith, Michael R.; Acquesta, Erin A.; Ames, Arlo L.; Carey, Alycia N.; Cueller, Christopher R.; Field, Richard V.; Maxfield, Trevor M.; Mitchell, Scott A.; Morris, Elizabeth S.; Moss, Blake C.; Nyre-Yu, Megan N.; Rushdi, Ahmad R.; Stites, Mallory C.; Smutz, Charles S.; Zhou, Xin Z.

This report details the results of a three-fold investigation of sensitivity analysis (SA) for machine learning (ML) explainability (MLE): (1) the mathematical assessment of the fidelity of an explanation with respect to a learned ML model, (2) quantifying the trustworthiness of a prediction, and (3) the impact of MLE on the efficiency of end-users through multiple users studies. We focused on the cybersecurity domain as the data is inherently non-intuitive. As ML is being using in an increasing number of domains, including domains where being wrong can elicit high consequences, MLE has been proposed as a means of generating trust in a learned ML models by end users. However, little analysis has been performed to determine if the explanations accurately represent the target model and they themselves should be trusted beyond subjective inspection. Current state-of-the-art MLE techniques only provide a list of important features based on heuristic measures and/or make certain assumptions about the data and the model which are not representative of the real-world data and models. Further, most are designed without considering the usefulness by an end-user in a broader context. To address these issues, we present a notion of explanation fidelity based on Shapley values from cooperative game theory. We find that all of the investigated MLE explainability methods produce explanations that are incongruent with the ML model that is being explained. This is because they make critical assumptions about feature independence and linear feature interactions for computational reasons. We also find that in deployed, explanations are rarely used due to a variety of reason including that there are several other tools which are trusted more than the explanations and there is little incentive to use the explanations. In the cases when the explanations are used, we found that there is the danger that explanations persuade the end users to wrongly accept false positives and false negatives. However, ML model developers and maintainers find the explanations more useful to help ensure that the ML model does not have obvious biases. In light of these findings, we suggest a number of future directions including developing MLE methods that directly model non-linear model interactions and including design principles that take into account the usefulness of explanations to the end user. We also augment explanations with a set of trustworthiness measures that measure geometric aspects of the data to determine if the model output should be trusted.