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UNB Chosen For IBM’s Watson Cybersecurity Project

The technology will be adapted to help IBM in its fight against cybercrime.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the University of New Brunswick that fits well with our proud and productive partnership with IBM,” said UNB president Eddy Campbell. “The fact that we are one of three universities in Canada to be chosen for this work speaks to our leadership role in cybersecurity research. We’re a best-kept secret no more.”

UNB joins the University of Ottawa; the University of Waterloo; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Pennsylvania State University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; New York University; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), for the Watson for Cybersecurity project.

“We’re pleased to take part on this project with IBM,” says Dr. Ali Ghorbani, dean of the faculty of computer science at the University of New Brunswick.

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

The project is part of a pioneering cognitive security project to address the looming cybersecurity skills gap while helping train Watson on the nuances of security research findings and discover behaviour patterns and evidence of hidden cyber attacks and threats that could otherwise be missed.

Computer science students at UNB and the other partner universities will be drafted to help Watson process and analyze massive amounts of cybersecurity data, including some 20 years of security research, details on 8 million spam and phishing attacks and more than 100,000 documented vulnerabilities.

“I’m excited to be working on this next-generation project with IBM,” said Rizwan Ali, a master’s of computer science student at the University of New Brunswick. “This puts me squarely on the ground floor, working on something that truly has the potential to transform the cybersecurity battleground in favour of the good guys.”

IBM says it chose UNB because of its long collaboration with the university on cybersecurity research, going back more than 15 years. Also in 2011, the firm purchased Q1 Labs, which was born at UNB.

“Even if the industry was able to fill the estimated 1.5 million open cybersecurity jobs by 2020, we’d still have a skills crisis in security,” said Marc van Zadelhoff, General Manager, IBM Security.

“The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime. 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.”