Connecting to the Future With Cognitive Security

To me, the one word that best describes the value of cognitive computing is connections. Most of the time, true creative breakthroughs come about from new connections between existing notions, not from out-of-the-blue ideas. To solve the pressing security challenges of today, we need more creative approaches, and the only way to find them is to make new connections.

Cognitive security solutions are beginning to help us make these novel connections. These tools allow us to better explore the combination of structured and unstructured data, be it customer, security, maintenance or financial information. Let’s see if we can make some connections of our own to better understand how the future of security might unfold with cognitive computing.

Making Connections With Cognitive Security

The cognitive security study the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) launched at the end of last year looked at the current security landscape and the potential adoption of cognitive security solutions. We asked security leaders what they want cognitive security to help them with and what might be holding them back from adoption.

We learned that security leaders want to improve their incident response speed. They also want to get better threat intelligence and optimize the accuracy of alerts. Many, however, are concerned about whether they have the right skills to deploy cognitive security solutions. Some are wondering how they can communicate the benefits of these new solutions to their stakeholders and get the budget they need to implement them.

Organizations are beginning to adopt cognitive tools, and IBM Security is putting out products to help IT leaders equip their cognitive security operations centers (SOCs). Watson for Cyber Security is powering products such as IBM QRadar Advisor with Watson. We are beginning to see evidence of the transformative power of this emerging technology from our beta clients and others.

One of these primed organizations is Smarttech, a security solutions provider that is leveraging Watson in its SOC. It has taken some time and patience, but Smarttech’s security analysts now have a new trusted partner that has accelerated the development of full incident forensic reports from a week to a few hours.

Learning From Other Industries

There will be many stories like this in the future, but to shed some light on what might be possible, let’s look at some other industries that face the same problems as the security community. It is important to make these connections with professionals in other industries to learn what they have faced in their cognitive journeys.

Intelligence Analysis

Cognitive technologies are being used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies to improve their investigations. Just like in information security, these disciplines have analysts that must sift through tremendous amounts of information, looking for patterns to help them with cases. Agencies have learned that, when properly utilized, cognitive systems can give analysts more time to actually think and enable them to think differently about research and discovery.

Predictive Maintenance

Another parallel use case to security is the early notification of maintenance issues. The Port of Cartagena is using a cognitive platform to combine real-time and historical views of operations. This cognitive system forecasts equipment failures and advises on predictive maintenance. Understanding when you are going to have a problem before it occurs is a challenge for security analysts as well as chief information security officers (CISOs).

Risk Management

In the financial services industry, cognitive technologies are enabling auditors and underwriters to connect the dots quickly. These professionals, just like intelligence and security analysts, have to do tremendous amounts of research and evaluation. At one European life insurance company, IT employees are developing a dashboard to put key patterns and findings from diverse data sources at underwriters’ fingertips. This will speed up the process and allow them to focus on actual risk analysis instead of just collecting data.

Embarking on a Cognitive Journey

We are just at the beginning of the cognitive journey for cybersecurity. Many IT leaders who have used the technology see it as something that can unleash the creativity of their security analysts, freeing them from mundane tasks and allowing them to focus on their unique talents. Much like the invention of writing, the paintbrush or the smartphone, cognitive tools will enable practitioners to explore and expand their craft in new ways. The influx of opportunities to make fresh connections between existing ideas is sure to open the cybersecurity field to new possibilities.

Looking to the future, what can we expect? In security, organizations want to evolve past simply finding problems, no matter how fast, to predicting and preventing them. They want to use intelligence and indicators to take automatic action on potential threats. For more information about the future of the field of artificial intelligence, you can check out a new series of IBM articles and interviews with 30 pioneers in the field.

To solve the pressing security challenges of today and tomorrow, we need more creative approaches. The only way to enable this creativity is by making connections and casting a thousand lines: connections between data, connections between industries and connections between ideas.

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David Jarvis

Security and CIO Lead for the IBM Institute for Business Value

David Jarvis is the Security and CIO Lead for the IBM Institute for Business Value. He is responsible for developing and executing an agenda that explores emerging business and technology topics for those areas. He is a passionate expert in the development and management of market insights, thought leadership and strategic foresight projects, and has held multiple positions at IBM in those areas. He is the author of numerous cybersecurity thought leadership reports, including the 2012–2014 IBM CISO Assessments. In addition to his research responsibilities, David teaches on business foresight and creative problem solving.