IBM Taps Top Universities to Train Watson on Cyber-Security

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2016-05-11 Print this article Print
IBM Watson

"The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime," said Marc van Zadelhoff, general manager 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 cyber-security analysts, and providing novice analysts with on-the-job training."

For its part, UMBC is taking a leadership role in cognitive cyber-security.

UMBC and IBM Research announced plans for a multiyear collaboration to create the Accelerated Cognitive Cybersecurity Laboratory (ACCL), which will be housed in the College of Engineering and Information Technology at UMBC. Opening in the fall of 2016, the lab will work to advance the application of cognitive computing to cyber-security via analytics and machine learning, while also exploring specialized computer power optimized for new intensive computing workloads, Barlow said.

With the ACCL, IBM and UMBC will explore new ways to apply cognitive technologies—which are able to digest, learn from, and reason about vast amounts of structured and unstructured data—to help cyber-security professionals gain an advantage in the battle against cyber-crime.

"We're going to provide the computing power, access to Watson, researchers and curriculum, and they're going to focus on leveraging [those] within the classroom as well as helping to train Watson," Barlow said, describing the relationship between IBM and UMBC.

He further noted that the ACCL research will be conducted on IBM and OpenPOWER technology. The IBM Power Systems being implemented in the ACCL at UMBC will use technology from the OpenPOWER Foundation, which is suited for the cognitive and advanced analytics workloads required in cyber-security research. In addition, researchers will receive technical development and support from the IBM Systems Group, Barlow said.

"There is a massive amount of security data that exists for human consumption, which cannot be processed by traditional security systems," said J.R. Rao, director of security research at IBM, in a statement. "By exploring the intersection of cyber-security and cognitive technology, we can leverage that untapped pool of data and evolve the way security professionals and technologies work together to help overcome cyber-threats."

The ACCL will be headed by Anupam Joshi, director of UMBC's Center for Cybersecurity and chair of computer science and electrical engineering at UMBC.

Moreover, at MIT, "We are constantly being asked by companies about availability of cyber-security-competent students to be hired for executive positions; this is yet another way for our students to be at the leading edge of cyber-security technologies," said Stuart Madnick, John Norris Maguire Professor of Information Technologies at MIT's Sloan School of Management, and professor of engineering systems at MIT's School of Engineering, in a statement. "This project actually provides two complementary values to our students since it reinforces and enhances their expertise in both big data/AI and cyber-security."

Pund-IT's King said he believes IBM's Watson could potentially have an impact on the cyber-security skills gap.

"IBM has positioned Watson as elemental to helping develop and train new generations of 'citizen data scientists,' which is to say, workers who could profit from accessing information relevant to their jobs but lack formal data science/analysis skills," King said. "That's an interesting, potentially valuable vision for IBM to pursue, but we're still in early days. If the company can make that vision real, it could change the cyber-security landscape in elemental and positive ways."


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