IBM Watson has moved from research to battling cybercrime in the real world. The Watson for Cybersecurity beta program will be adopted by 40 organisations and will involve using cognitive computing to help detect and combat cybercrime in the healthcare, finance and other industries, according to reports.

Watson has been designed to rely on its cognitive computing prowess and AI tech such as machine learning and natural language processing to analyse data and detect criminal activity in cyberspace.

"We had Watson in school for the last number of months," Caleb Barlow, a vice-president in IBM's security group, told Fortune. "Now it's ready for its first internship."

What makes Watson stand out from other traditional cybercrime fighting approaches is its ability to scrutinise information by analysing structured data, such as particular security incidents and incorporate it with unstructured data like research reports and white papers, Wired reported. This would allow Watson to determine whether a detected cyberattack could be linked with known malware strains in the wild or other such active cybercrime campaigns.

"I'd equate the traditional cybersecurity analysis model to standing at the side of a freeway trying to identify potential lawbreakers. As traffic whizzes by, it's impossible to identify who is speeding or who might be in a stolen vehicle," said Sean Valcamp, head of security at Avnet. "Using Watson, on the other hand, is like flying over the same freeway in a helicopter."

Given that Watson is still in the beta stage, a certain margin for error is expected. However, the next-gen supercomputer has been designed to learn from its mistakes and make the process of cybercrime detection less time-consuming and more effective. With the beta program, IBM hopes to boost Watson's current understanding of cybercrime and security. Watson will use behavioural biometrics to spot suspicious activity and contextualise to determine whether the activity is malicious or merely abnormal, ZDNet reported.

IBM CTO Sandy Bird said: "Customers are in the early stages of implementing cognitive technologies. Our research suggests that this adoption will increase three fold over the next three years, as tools like Watson for cybersecurity mature and become pervasive in security operations centres."