Cognitive Systems Cited as New Priority by Nearly 60% of Security Professionals

IBM Security have confirmed that global leaders in banking, healthcare, insurance, education and other key industries have joined the IBM Watson for Cyber Security beta program.

Companies including Sun Life Financial, University of Rochester Medical Center, Avnet, SCANA Corporation, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, California Polytechnic State University, University of New Brunswick and Smarttech will be amongst 40 organizations testing Watson’s ability to assist in the battle against cybercrime.

Today’s increasingly challenging security environment has created the need for more intelligence to identify and prioritise threats, which is in turn increasing the workload of security analysts with more alerts and anomalies to process than ever. Watson for Cyber Security uses intelligent technologies like machine learning and natural language processing, which can help security analysts make better, faster decisions from vast amounts of data.


A recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value shows that nearly 60% of security professionals believe emerging cognitive technologies will be a critical part of changing the tides in the war on cybercrime.

“Customers are in the early stages of implementing cognitive security technologies,” said Sandy Bird, Chief Technology Officer, IBM Security. “Our research suggests this adoption will increase three fold over the next three years, as tools like Watson for Cyber Security mature and become pervasive in security operations centers. Currently, only seven percent of security professionals claim to be using cognitive solutions.”

Watson for Cyber Security Beta Program

Watson for Cyber Security takes advantage of IBM’s leading cognitive technology, which is being trained to understand the unique language of security. By applying intelligent technologies like machine learning and natural language processing, Watson can help security analysts make better decisions from structured data, as well as the massive amount of unstructured data that has been dark to an organization’s defenses until now.

Fortune 500 companies and organizations spanning industries such as finance, travel, energy, automotive and education are currently working with Watson for Cyber Security, helping to refine Watson’s cyber security capabilities and pilot real-world use cases. Avnet, California Polytechnic State University, SCANA Corporation, Smarttech, Sun Life Financial, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, University of New Brunswick and University of Rochester Medical Center are amongst the first set of customers already working with Watson for Cyber Security as part of the initial beta program. The beta program will increase to 40 companies in coming weeks.

These beta customers are leveraging Watson in their current security environments to bring additional context to their cyber security data, with new use cases such as:

  • Determining whether or not a current security “offense” is associated with a known malware or cybercrime campaign; if so, Watson can provide background on the malware employed, vulnerabilities exploited and scope of the threat, among other insights.
  • Better identifying suspicious behavior; Watson provides additional context to user activity outside of the primary suspicious behavior, which can provide better guidance to whether or not an activity is malicious.

Working with these beta customers, IBM is continuing to enhance Watson’s understanding of the cyber security data and refine how Watson can seamlessly integrate into day to day security operations.

Study Shows Cognitive Security on the Rise

The IBM Institute for Business Value recently surveyed over 700 security professionals to gauge perspectives on the challenges, benefits and opportunities for cognitive security technologies.

Nearly 60% of those surveyed believe that cognitive technologies will mature soon enough to significantly slow down cybercriminals in the near future. While only 7% said their organisations are currently in the process of implementing cognitive security solutions, 21% said they will implement these solutions over the next 2-3 years, representing a 3x increase in adoption.


Security professionals also said that the top benefit they expect to see from cognitive technologies is improved detection and incident response decision-making capabilities, which was indicated by 40% of respondents. Currently, the average data breach takes organisations an average of 201 days to identify and an average of 70 days to contain. Security professionals expect cognitive to play a big part in reducing this time by providing them with better data to make fast decisions.

Download the full report.

(infographics: IBM)