Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title







182 (1-23)


Remote sensing datasets usually have a wide range of spatial and spectral resolutions. They provide unique advantages in surveillance systems, and many government organizations use remote sensing multispectral imagery to monitor security-critical infrastructures or targets. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has advanced rapidly in recent years and has been widely applied to remote image analysis, achieving state-of-the-art (SOTA) performance. However, AI models are vulnerable and can be easily deceived or poisoned. A malicious user may poison an AI model by creating a stealthy backdoor. A backdoored AI model performs well on clean data but behaves abnormally when a planted trigger appears in the data. Backdoor attacks have been extensively studied in machine learning-based computer vision applications with natural images. However, much less research has been conducted on remote sensing imagery, which typically consists of many more bands in addition to the red, green, and blue bands found in natural images. In this paper, we first extensively studied a popular backdoor attack, BadNets, applied to a remote sensing dataset, where the trigger was planted in all of the bands in the data. Our results showed that SOTA defense mechanisms, including Neural Cleanse, TABOR, Activation Clustering, Fine-Pruning, GangSweep, Strip, DeepInspect, and Pixel Backdoor, had difficulties detecting and mitigating the backdoor attack. We then proposed an explainable AI-guided backdoor attack specifically for remote sensing imagery by placing triggers in the image sub-bands. Our proposed attack model even poses stronger challenges to these SOTA defense mechanisms, and no method was able to defend it. These results send an alarming message about the catastrophic effects the backdoor attacks may have on satellite imagery.


© 2024 by the authors.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Data Availability

Article states: "The data will be made available by the authors on request."

Original Publication Citation

Islam, K. A., Wu, H., Xin, C., Ning, R., Zhu, L., & Li, J. (2024). Sub-band backdoor attack in remote sensing imagery. Algorithms, 17(5), 1-23, Article 182.


0000-0003-4050-6252 (Ning), 0000-0003-0091-6986 (Li)