Cal Poly Pomona has been selected by IBM as one of eight universities to teach cybersecurity to Watson, a learning computer most famous for its championship run on Jeopardy.
Students and faculty will help make Watson more knowledgeable by feeding it reports about computer security breaches and threats. Watson is ideal for that sort of task because its system is programmed with the ability to read the human language those reports are written in. Watson will use its newfound knowledge show humans the security vulnerabilities they might have otherwise missed.
“Providing our students an opportunity to work one-on-one with Watson will undoubtedly set them apart when it’s time to enter the workforce,” says Dan Manson, professor and chair of the computer information systems department. “Not only is there potential to search for and repair vulnerabilities, Watson’s ability to recognize advanced patterns could fill holes we didn’t even know existed.”
Cal Poly Pomona is the only university in the Western United States and one of only five in the United States that will participate in the project. Three universities in Canada also were chosen. About 30 students from each university will participate in the project.
Students will analyze the language of security documents, such as technical reports, threat intelligence reports, cybercrime strategies and threat databases, and identify parts of a sentence. They will feed this information to the Watson system so it can understand the patterns and relationships between these parts of language, enabling Watson to digest documents on its own. IBM expects Watson to eventually process 13,000 documents per month.
Watson for Cybersecurity, as the project is called, uses the system’s ability to reason and learn from “unstructured data,” the type of information that accounts for 80 percent of data on the Internet. Traditional security tools cannot process unstructured data such as blogs, articles, videos, reports, alerts and other documents.
“The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime,” says Marc van Zadelhoff, general manager of IBM security. “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 cybersecurity analysts, and providing novice analysts with on-the-job training.”
The partner universities are Cal Poly Pomona; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Penn State; New York University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of New Brunswick; the University of Ottawa; and the University of Waterloo.
For more information on cognitive security, visit the IBM website.