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IBM Watson enters cyber security arena to improve security in healthcare and other industries

Cognitive computing may be the next big advance in health IT security. According to a recent study from the IBM Institute for Business Value, nearly 60% of security professionals say cognitive technologies will be crucial to battling  cybercrime.

Organizations from across many industries—including healthcare—are participating in the IBM Watson for Cyber Security beta program, according to a release. One healthcare organization that will be participating is the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York.

The release said that the Watson cybersecurity system uses intelligent technologies like machine learning and natural language processing that can help security analysts make better and faster decisions using vast amounts of data.

“Customers are in the early stages of implementing cognitive security technologies,” Sandy Bird, chief technology officer for IBM Security, said in the release. “Our research suggests this adoption will increase threefold over the next three years, as tools like Watson for Cyber Security mature and become pervasive in security operations centers.”

The organizations now participating in the beta program—including URMC —are using Watson in their environment to bring more context to their cybersecurity data, the release said.

Some new use cases for cognitive computing and cybersecurity, according to the release, include:

  • “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.”

Cybersecurity is at the forefront of healthcare CIOs’ and health IT professionals’ agendas as ransomware attacks have been ramping up and have increased 300% from 2015 in early 2016 alone, according to a U.S. Government Interagency report.

Given this increase in attacks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released guidance on ransomware attacks.