More than a cuckoo clock: Watson AI machine will provide artificially intelligent cyber solutions for Switzerland banks
More than a cuckoo clock: Watson AI machine will provide artificially intelligent cyber solutions for Switzerland banks

Famous for its cuckoo clocks, Switzerland is about to get a machine so sophisticated that it will outthink the cyber-attackers targeting its equally famous banking industry.

Being developed by IBM and SIX, the Financial Technology Company of Switzerland, this will be the country's first cognitive security operations centre (SOC) and will help protect the Swiss financial services industry.

This will probably fly under the radar for most consumers, but a recent survey indicates that the public is concerned about artificial intelligence including its negative impact on jobs and how it might be used by criminals.

The SIX SOC will be built around IBM Watson for Cyber Security, which is billed as the industry's first cognitive security technology. The machine learning engine has been trained in cyber-security by ingesting millions of documents which have been annotated and fed to it by students at eight universities in North America.

Watson for Cyber Security will be the first technology to offer cognition of security data at scale using Watson's ability to reason and learn from "unstructured data" – 80 percent of all data on the internet that traditional security tools cannot process, including blogs, articles, videos, reports, alerts and other information.

According to IBM, SIX will offer the service to its financial services customers who need security, regulatory, compliance and audit capabilities “to ensure adherence to existing or future Swiss data privacy and data protection legislation – regulating what can be exchanged, by whom and how, as well as financial market regulations”.

Prof Alan Woodward, visiting professor in the department of computer science at the University of Surrey, told SC Media UK that cognitive SOCs are “a really interesting development”.

“Many have talked about AI becoming a part of the security landscape for a while. It has to come if security is to be agile enough to detect and respond to the ever-changing threat,” he said. “This shows that it is becoming real. It might not be full blown AI as many have been predicting but it's certainly a step along the path.”

The speed of response is the key issue, as Woodward sees it, especially to threats that are rapidly evolving.

“The real tipping point will be when the machines are well-enough trained that they can not just help identify the threat but automate the response,” he said.

“It would be nice to think that we could have a generation of machines that we could train well-enough to automate our defences. My only concern is that humans are quite adaptable and automated future defences might be vulnerable to humans suddenly changing their modus operandi in attacks. I guess that developments such as that from IBM are the beginnings of putting this to the test.”

The centre is not the first to be built in Europe, but Switzerland's data protection laws prevent banks from using services from outside its borders.

“Digitisation, Internet of Things, global connectivity and the integration of new disruptive technologies are some megatrends opening a lot of new business opportunities. However, they also bring new threats with possible high impact on the industry,” said Robert Bornträger, division CEO at SIX Global IT.

“We're looking forward to both helping SIX manage its own cyber-security needs, and also becoming an essential partner starting with the globally respected Swiss banking market to those other organisations who need regionally-based and Swiss market compliant security services,” said Thomas Landolt, country general manager IBM Switzerland.