Watson and Cybersecurity: Bringing AI to the Battle

“To function effectively in this knowledge economy, you need to read through trillions of data points. You basically need to go back to school every day to answer the questions that hit your desk. That is the challenge of the knowledge economy. And that is where I believe we can do something different in security with AI and cognitive.” — Marc van Zadelhoff

At IBM InterConnect 2017, Marc van Zadelhoff, general manager of IBM Security, delivered a thought-provoking keynote titled “Watson & Cybersecurity: Bringing AI to the Battle.” With multiple demos and a client panel, the keynote exemplified how IBM is addressing today’s biggest challenges in cybersecurity with innovative cognitive technology.

Addressing Challenges With Cognitive Security

Opening with anecdotes across health care, financial services and law enforcement, Marc painted a picture of the global challenges practitioners face every day around data, insight and skill. His point hit home with the security crowd. When it comes to security analysts, these challenges are not too different, and they are often overlooked.

In a given day, an enterprise might see 200,000 security events. One security analyst might have to investigate as many as 40 incidents, each of which can take hours or days to complete. When you couple this with the industrywide skills gap and the amount of time and money wasted chasing false positives, you begin to see just how difficult the life of a security analyst is. It’s high stakes and high stress — and when a threat hits, people want answers fast.

Marc van Zadelhoff discusses the cybersecurity industry's response to worldwide skills gap

Thinking Differently About Cybersecurity

As Marc stated, “It’s time to think differently.” During his keynote, he introduced Sandy Bird, chief technology officer (CTO) of IBM Security, and Mike Spisak, IBM master inventor, to show how IBM is thinking differently with Watson for Cyber Security.

Sandy and Mike showcased Watson’s corpus of knowledge, built on the IBM Cloud, ingesting millions of security documents and forming billions of security data elements — always learning and never forgetting. While Sandy played the role of a security analyst investigating a threat actor with IBM QRadar Advisor with Watson, Mike communicated with Project Hayvn, the second-screen application that performs research and generates reports on demand.

In minutes, Sandy and Mike were able to leverage Watson’s massive collection of security knowledge to identify the threat actor’s activity. They also added real-time insight from IBM X-Force Exchange through Hayvn’s natural language application program interfaces (APIs). With artificial intelligence at top of mind, it served as a literal illustration of human and machine working together to deliver unprecedented speed, accuracy and intelligence.

Sandy Bird and Mike Spisak present IBM Watson for Cyber Security

Watson Driving the Future of Cybersecurity

After seeing the art of the possible, the audience listened as three clients discussed with Marc how Watson was delivering real results in the security operations center (SOC). It was a multilayered conversation with clients from Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. covering today’s security challenges, innovations and the importance of minding security basics.

The primary focus was on the next era of cybersecurity and the role of cognitive technology. As Stanislav Kuznetsov, deputy chairman of the executive board at Sberbank, summarized, “I’m sure that cognitive technology like Watson is the new future for every cybersecurity system.”

An Ongoing Journey

With the IBM Security Immune System fully draped behind him, Marc wrapped up the keynote with a final message that the journey to cognitive is just beginning. IBM Security is committed to cognitive innovation, infusing artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities into the world’s largest and broadest security portfolio.

Marc subsequently announced that IBM MaaS360 with Watson, IBM’s unified endpoint management solution, now features cognitive insights. A livestreamed question-and-answer panel was recorded shortly after.

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Christian Falco

Strategy Associate, IBM

Christian Falco is a strategist with IBM Security, helping to build and articulate the business unit's strategy centered around CISO objectives, key innovation and a leading portfolio of products and services. He has over 5 years experience in strategy roles across IBM.