Cal Poly Pomona Students to Help Teach IBM Watson Cybersecurity Language


IBM has announced that Cal Poly Pomona will be one of eight universities to partner in a project to greatly expand the collection of cybersecurity data using Watson’s cognitive ability.

University partners will initially work to help build Watson’s “corpus of knowledge” by annotating and feeding security reports and data to the system, states the May 10 announcement. This work will build on IBM’s efforts in developing the Watson system for cybersecurity.

“Providing our students an opportunity to work one-on-one with Watson will undoubtedly set them apart when it’s time to enter the workforce,” says Dan Manson, computer information systems chair. “Not only is there potential to search for and repair vulnerabilities, Watson’s ability to recognize advanced patterns could fill holes we didn’t even know existed.”

Students will analyze the language of security documents such as technical reports and identify parts of a sentence. They will feed this information to the Watson system so it can understand the patterns and relationships between these parts of language, enabling Watson to digest documents on its own. 

IBM expects to process 13,000 security documents per month over the next phase of the training with university partners, clients and IBM experts. These documents will include threat intelligence reports, cybercrime strategies and threat databases.

Training Watson will also help build the taxonomy for Watson in cybersecurity, including the understanding of hashes, infection methods and indicators of compromise, and help identify advanced persistent threats.

This pioneering cognitive security project hopes to address the looming cybersecurity skills gap while helping train Watson on the nuances of security research findings and evidence of hidden cyberattacks and threats that could otherwise be missed.

“The volume and velocity of data in security is one of our greatest challenges in dealing with cybercrime,” says Marc van Zadelhoff, general manager of IBM security. “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."

Watson for Cybersecurity uses the system’s ability to reason and learn from “unstructured data,” the type of information that accounts for 80 percent of all data on the Internet. Traditional security tools cannot process unstructured data such as blogs, articles, videos, reports, alerts and other documents.

The other universities chosen for the project are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Penn St.; New York University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of New Brunswick; the University of Ottawa; and the University of Waterloo.

For more information on cognitive security, visit