IBM Watson To Fight Cybercrime

After Watson beat human players on the TV game show Jeopardy!, its cognitive might was put to work in a variety of fields, including healthcare and finance. Now IBM Security is dispatching the supercomputer to fight cybercrime.

Dawn Kawamoto, Associate Editor, Dark Reading

May 10, 2016

3 Min Read
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7 Ways Cloud Computing Propels IT Security

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On Tuesday, IBM announced that it is expanding the role of Watson from beyond the healthcare, financial, and customer service industries to fighting cybercrime, as it unveiled Watson for Cyber Security.

As part of this launch, Watson will team up with eight universities in the fall to expand its cloud-based knowledge of the cyber-security landscape. The universities aim to annotate and feed Watson's machine-learning system with security reports and data.

"The key piece to remember is 'garbage in equals garbage out.' If Watson is given bad or incomplete information, it will never be effective in learning and predicting a threat. If the data is real, complete, and patterns can be established, it will be able to predict what potentially can happen, and, most importantly, build future models that can be scaled to help everyone. This is why university help in programming Watson is so important. If successful, it might very well be a game changer in the next decade (for using cognitive technology in cyber security)," Morey Haber, vice president of technology at BeyondTrust, told InformationWeek in an interview.

Watson will work with the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pennsylvania State University; MIT; NYU; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC); the University of New Brunswick; the University of Ottawa; and the University of Waterloo.

IBM is planning to process up to 15,000 security documents a month during the next phase of Watson's training.

The documents will include threat intelligence reports, cybercrime strategies, and threat databases, which will help Watson understand infection methods, compromise indicators, and how to identify advanced and persistent threats.

The goal is to help security analysts use cognitive systems to determine emerging threats and provide strategies to resolve them.

IBM expects to start beta production deployments for Watson for Cyber Security later this year. Marc van Zadelhoff, general manager of IBM Security, said in a statement:

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.

Haber, however, cautioned that vendors claim they use artificial intelligence all the time and, unfortunately, the industry widely dismisses AI as another buzzword. But he noted Watson is different.

[Read IBM, SAP Strike Deeper Cloud Partnership.]

"The industry recognizes (Watson) is a real AI engine based on a supercomputer and not an Intel i7 CPU in your laptop," Haber told us. "Based on raw horsepower and very sophisticated programming, it takes AI algorithms to a new level by [having them] learning and adapting themselves to the data and tasks assigned. It is closer to a true learning system than we have ever achieved before, and it has been tasked with helping meet modern cyber-security challenges."

Nonetheless, Haber noted it will be a few years before Watson will actually have an impact within an organization. But if Watson for Cyber Security is successful in training its intelligence engines on the nuances of cyber-security, Haber said, "it will be incredibility effective."

About the Author(s)

Dawn Kawamoto

Associate Editor, Dark Reading

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's,, AOL's DailyFinance, and The Motley Fool. More recently, she served as associate editor for technology careers site

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