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Annual Report 2017

Teaching IBM’s Watson to fight cybercriminals

Dr. Ali Ghorbani

IBM’s Watson — the cognitive machine that became famous for beating out human contestants in the game show Jeopardy — is now moving on to the frontlines of the battle against cybercriminals.

And the University of New Brunswick is right by its side.

The global technology firm has chosen UNB as one of 40 organizations in North America to beta test Watson in cybersecurity, building on an earlier partnership in which UNB students were first enlisted to help teach Watson about cybersecurity.

For students at UNB, all this translates into valuable real-world experience in developing world-leading technology.

"UNB students have been amongst the very first to work with IBM on the Watson project,” says Dr. Ali Ghorbani, the Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity at UNB who was instrumental in forging the partnership.

“Our students have been teaching Watson, testing it and validating that training. It’s unbeatable experience in cybersecurity development with one of the top companies in the world," says Dr. Ghorbani.

“The fact that IBM entrusted the University of New Brunswick to undertake this leading-edge work speaks volumes about our global reputation and expertise in cybersecurity,” says Dr. Ghorbani, who is also director of the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at UNB.

Like other beta customers, UNB is leveraging Watson for its IT system security in different ways, including to better defend against and respond to cybercrime campaigns and for improved identification of suspicious behaviour on its networks.

At the same time, the work at UNB is helping to enhance Watson’s understanding of the cybersecurity data and refine how Watson can seamlessly integrate into day-to-day security operations.

“We’ve been working hard with IBM for years on solutions to the growing threat of cybersecurity,” Dr. Ghorbani says. “This project with Watson has tremendous potential to be a game-changer.”