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IBM LogoThe months of March and April were busy ones at IBM with the usual flurry of announcements in hardware, software, services, acquisitions, and strategic alliances. See the complete index of IBM Happenings (by year and month) here. The major focus of the company remains on a “smarter planet and the dimensions of this thrust continue to expand. An area of personal interest to me is aviation so I was pleased to learn about a joint project between IBM and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) working on a Research and Development project to protect the nation’s civilian aviation system from the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks.

Faa.gov is the official website for the Federal Aviation Administration. The site deals with many vital aviation topics including flights, airports, policies, news and events affecting aviation, pilot resources, weather, a wealth of safety information, regulations and guidelines, air traffic data, research, licenses and certificates, training and testing, alerts about specific airports, and medical and aircraft certification. The site has approximately a half-million monthly visitors who view an average of two million web pages. Needless to say faa.gov is a vital national resource. It is also a potential target for those who would like to harm it.

The joint project is part of IBM’s First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) program which engages scientists from IBM Research with clients to explore and pilot emerging technologies that address real world problems. In the case of faa.gov the IBM researchers and cyber security experts will design and build a prototype security system capable to accommodate the FAA’s high-speed networks. Building on IBM’s vast experience with analytics, the project will introduce first-of-a-kind security technologies and entirely new approaches to protecting large digital and physical infrastructures from hacking, botnets, malware and other forms of cyber attacks.

The prototype system will go beyond traditional security approaches of encryption, firewalls, intrusion-detection devices and anti-virus software. A flexible model is being designed to look retrospectively at event occurrences and system compromises. It will be able to correlate historical traffic patterns with dynamic data from monitors, sensors and other devices which capture information about network traffic and user activity in real time. Using “streaming analytics” and customized executive-level dashboards, the system will enable the FAA to continually analyze the massive amounts of data flowing through its networks and get instant and accurate insights about possible network threats and anomalies suggesting a possible attack in time to take action. The FAA will also be able to store real-time results in a data warehouse for later analysis and training.

“Cyber attacks have become a global pandemic and no system is immune,” said Todd Ramsey, general manager for IBM’s government business. “Through this collaboration with the FAA, as well as others underway in government and the private sector, we hope to develop comprehensive solutions for protecting the digital and physical infrastructures of critical national networks and enterprise systems.” IBM has also established the IBM Institute for Advanced Security in Washington, D.C., to help government agencies and other institutions gain access to tools, resources and expertise to address cyber security issues.