International Business Machines Corp. Pushes AI Limits
International Business Machines Corp.’s (NYSE:IBM) famous artificial intelligence (AI) software, nicknamed “Watson,” is now in training to become a cybersecurity bodyguard.
Forty different IBM clients are “beta testing” the powerful AI to see whether it can detect digital threats. However, IBM stressed that Watson is still in the learning process. The testers need to continually feed it data so its cognition can improve to a useful level.
For instance, IBM ran a test several months ago which asked Watson to identify the nature of “ransomware.” Anyone remotely familiar with cybersecurity could tell you that ransomware is a virus that holds your computer hostage until you pay the hacker a, well, ransom. (Source: “IBM Watson for Cybersecurity Inches from Research to Reality,” Fortune, December 6, 2016.)
The name is self-explanatory. Nonetheless, Watson identified ransomware as a city. Yes, like New York or London. This blunder could have been embarrassing, except that Watson has now evolved faster than most analysts would have expected.
Watson has absorbed a ton of data from eight universities, including the illustrious likes of MIT, New York University, and Penn State. Additional information from IBM’s own cyberattacks database was fed into the AI, helping it understand the structure of digital assaults.
Spam, malware, phishing; the patterns involved in these threats were digested by Watson over the last few months.
Since then, it has obviously performed far better on IBM’s tests, or else the company would not introduce it to its clients’ IT infrastructure. By letting Watson sift through real files used by IBM’s clients, the company hopes to sharpen its distinction between regular business and a threat.
The idea is to make Watson an invaluable tool for cybersecurity experts. Rather than replacing those people, IBM just wants to make them more effective by supplying a tool that can spot cyberattacks before—or as—they are happening. (Source: “IBM Watson Brings AI Wonders to Cybersecurity,” Fortune, May 10, 2016.)
As it stands, there is a serious demand for trained cybersecurity professionals.
“Even if the industry was able to fill the estimated 1.5 million open cyber security jobs by 2020, we’d still have a skills crisis in security,” said IBM’s chief of security, Marc van Zadelhoff, earlier this year. He added:
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.