Cognitive security techniques are essential in improving health care delivery, patient privacy and medical outcomes. What is not as well known is that biology now returns the favor: The understanding and implementation of biological principles enhances and advances IBM innovations in cognitive security.

Patents, Processes and More

As an example, I’d like to discuss just two of the many thousands of patents IBM Security inventors receive each year: the February 2016 patent No. 9,268,002, “Implantable or insertable nuclear magnetic resonance imaging system” and one a few years prior, patent No. 7,671,591, “Method and system for comparing micro-electronic devices using magnetic resonance imaging.”

Perhaps we can see that these patents in some way reflect 100 years of technology history. They also tell a story on a 100-year-old $2 bill, but we’ll get to that later.

When talking with friends about the importance of cognitive security, I like to good-naturedly get in their face and say, in my friendly Brooklyn style, “If it weren’t for computers, you might not be here!” By that I mean that advances in computerized medical imaging and diagnostics have saved millions of lives. (I also mean that without GPS they might have missed my house, but that’s another security discussion.)

But interestingly, our increasing knowledge of biological processes — a knowledge gleaned by computers and guarded by IT security — is also used to improve the increasingly complex information security and privacy environments. IBM has many emerging security examples of this, such as the two innovations mentioned above: a computerized, miniaturized MRI investigatory device and the use of MRI to better secure computer chips.

Perhaps this was presaged by the image on that special $2 bill, “Science Presents Steam and Electricity to Commerce and Manufacture.” It features an allegorical picture on the front and a portrait of the very first digital communications pioneer, Samuel Morse of Morse code fame, on the back.

Thinking about it more deeply, did not Commerce and Manufacture also enable Science, and not just vice versa? Similarly, just as computer security has aided the use and distribution of medical imaging, what we learn from biology can now potentially be used to aid electronics and improve computer security and privacy.

Technology Encourages Progress

The members of IBM Security are incredibly diverse, but we often share common technical interests — aviation, in my case. My interest in aircraft may stem from my late father, who was born early in the 1900s in a very remote area of Russia. Right after he was born (or so the story goes), the first plane flew over his tiny village and caused a commotion. Until that time, nobody there had ever seen a plane and nobody had ever heard a plane. In fact, nobody had even heard of a plane.

Fast forward a few decades to World War II, and my father is a U.S. Army officer helping put radar all over the world in even more remote locations to track planes. But what was watched on the radar screens was not a plane and not even the image of a plane, but rather an analog electronic abstraction of the plane’s location.

Fast forward a few more decades to the new millennium when my wife was pregnant with twins. Every step of our twins’ development was tracked electronically. In the womb, they were monitored each night by modem from our house. Computers were able to make an abstraction of their vital signs. Due in part to this constant electronic medical surveillance, they were born in great shape.

Radar began as an acronym for radio detection and ranging. We now not only use techniques similar to radar to understand the human body, but we also use these sciences to detect, inoculate and deflect cyberattacks.

Applying Technology to Security

Of course, among cognitive security capabilities is the industry-leading QRadar Security Intelligence. But unlike the radar of my father’s day or the modem of my children’s day, what is most important is that these products do not merely provide a picture, helpful though that can be. They also provide a comprehensive digital representation — one that’s storable, manipulable and analyzable — of the needed information. It’s a dynamic, situational image that can be directly channeled into tangible business actions and outcomes.

I think some cognitive security initiatives we develop should not be pronounced as patent but rather pay-tent. We can make obvious and accessible to society and business some facts and capabilities that would otherwise be hidden or latent. Patent is our bright and shiny — and protective and sustainable — innovation, similar to patent leather.

We can’t predict the future, but we can project and help shape it via analytic and cognitive means. As aviation radar, medical radar and QRadar all show, we can take prompt and effective action for protection when something is detected and in range. Perhaps one thing we can predict is that advances in cognitive security and in biology will enable, reinforce and mutually expand each other closely in the days ahead.

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