IBM’s Watson takes aim at cybersecurity

Anonymous unrecognizable man with digital tablet computerIBM has launched a new cloud-based version of the company’s cognitive technology to tackle the rising challenge of cyber security.

The company’s R&D team have recently completed a year-long research program to teach Watson to understand the nuances of security research findings, which can be used to realize patterns and uncover evidence of hidden cyber-attacks which could have been missed. IBM plan to move the security-version into beta test later this year.

Watson’s new capabilities builds on the skills gap within the security job market, but also the idea that big data in a security perspective is too vast for human capabilities. Like other areas of the cloud industry, simple tasks are being automated, allowing employees to concentrate on the more critical areas of the business. IBM claim the average organization deals with 200,000 pieces of security event data per day, with enterprises spending $1.3 million a year dealing with false positives alone.

“Even if the industry was able to fill the estimated 1.5 million open cyber security jobs by 2020, we’d still have a skills crisis in security,” said Marc van Zadelhoff, GM at IBM Security. “The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime. By leveraging Watson’s ability to bring context to staggering amounts of unstructured data, impossible for people alone to process, we will bring new insights, recommendations, and knowledge to security professionals, bringing greater speed and precision to the most advanced cybersecurity analysts, and providing novice analysts with on-the-job training.”

The new offering is built on Watson’s ability to learn and reason from unstructured data, 80% of which cannot be processed by non-cognitive tools, and IBM claim the offering will learn from a number of different sources including blogs, articles, videos, reports and alerts. The company believe only 8% of this unstructured data is being utilized currently, making the concept of secure almost impossible. Once Watson for Security is released it will provide customers insights into emerging threats, as well as recommendations on how to stop them.

To further enhance the offering, the team have also announced eight partnerships with various universities to train Watson on the language of cybersecurity. The universities include California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pennsylvania State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); the University of New Brunswick; the University of Ottawa and the University of Waterloo.