Why IBM's Watson could become your city's cyber security ally

Wed, 2016-05-11 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

As the world becomes more dependent on connectivity and the Internet of Things (millions of web-connected devices, sensors, automated systems, even smart appliances), the
menu of targets for cybercriminals grows. But strategies and technologies to counter those threats are growing too, and IBM's new Watson for Cyber Security could very well become a valuable resource for cities that want their systems to be more secure. It makes sense to anticipate Watson's contributions to cyber security will benefit cities as well as other agencies, industries and services.

Why? IBM already has demonstrated its interest in helping cities get smarter. For example, its annual Smarter Cities Challenge offers pro bono consulting services to cities and Watson has been used to study trends that help cities anticipate needs and make more informed choices about their smart cities upgrades. — Doug Peeples

IBM says its cloud-based Watson for Cyber Security project is part of a larger plan to help mitigate what it and others see as a shortage of skilled cyber security analysts and the enormous amounts of data they're expected to stay on top of.

"The volume of security data presented to analysts is staggering," the company said in a statement announcing the new project. "The average organization sees over 200,000 pieces of security event data per day with enterprises spending $1.3 million a year dealing with false positives alone." Add to that the more than 75,000 already verified software vulnerabilities and it's not hard to see why security analysts have a very difficult time of keeping informed and moving quickly on threats.

How Watson will contribute
IBM likes to say Watson is able to process information more like a human than a computer. It's just that Watson can do it a lot faster. And in addition to the training it has received from IBM, eight colleges and universities will add substantially more security data as part of the training process this fall.

IBM also stresses that Watson will be helping security professionals, not displacing them. "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 IBM General Manager for Security Marc van Zadelhoff. "By leveraging Watson's ability to bring context to staggering amounts of unstructured data, impossible for people alone 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."

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.