Security Advisor

IBM Preps Watson To Battle Cybercrime

The company will partner with eight universities to strengthen the AI's security base of knowledge.

On Tuesday IBM announced that its cloud-based machine learning platform Watson will soon be ready to tackle online crime, using security resources found across the Web.

The new version of the company's question-answering platform, made famous by beating Ken Jennings on Jeopardy in 2011, will be called Watson for Cyber Security and will be developed over the next year. IBM will be partnering with a handful of universities to improve the platform's language recognition with everything cybersecurity related.

The new push is to counter what IBM sees as growing divide between cybercrime and those ready to combat it successfully. According to the company, large organizations waste an average of 21,000 hours and $1.3 million every year dealing with fake security alerts, and implementing an automated system would alleviate both time and money wasted.

"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, head of IBM Security, in a statement. "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."

What should give Watson a leg up over its human counterparts in IT is that thanks to machine learning, the AI will be able to keep up to date on the thousands of active security issues that is happening at any given time. Along with being plugged into the network of security resources found online, Watson for Cyber Security will come equipped with the knowledge found in Big Blue's X-Force research library, which includes two decades of security research on over 100,000 vulnerabilities.

In the announcement, IBM said that the following eight universities will be partnering with the company to train Watson for duty:  Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pennsylvania State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University, UMBC; the University of Maryland; University of New Brunswick ; the University of Ottawa and the University of Waterloo.

IBM also announced that UMBC will not only be teaming up to strengthen Watson for Cyber Security, but will be partnering with the company over the next two years to create the Accelerated Cognitive Cybersecurity Laboratory (ACCL) facility on campus. The goal of the lab will be to further the study of machine learning and how it can be further implemented in cyber defense.

"This collaboration will allow our students and faculty to work with IBM to advance the state-of-the-art in cognitive computing and cybersecurity," said Anupam Joshi, director of UMBC's Center for Cybersecurity and chair of computer science and electrical engineering, at UMBC.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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