How BlackBerry Has Become a Cyber-Security Player

BlackBerry is a very different company today than it was a decade ago, as the one-time mobile giant is now firmly positioning itself to be a global player in the cyber-security market.

Among the new assets in the BlackBerry security portfolio is Cylance, which BlackBerry acquired in a $1.4 billion deal announced in November 2018. Cylance is, however, only one of many cyber-security technologies within BlackBerry. In a video interview with eWEEK, BlackBerry CTO Charles Eagan explains what his company is now doing in cyber-security as it transitions away from its mobile device past.

"We probably have 50 different elements in our security portfolio," Eagan told eWEEK.

Among the cyber-security technologies in the BlackBerry portfolio is mobile device management (MDM) capabilities gained via the acquisition of Good Technology for $425 million in 2015.

"Good gives us a dynamic container to create a secure environment in otherwise insecure devices," Eagan said.

QNX Technologies, which BlackBerry acquired in 2010 for $200 million, provides a secure embedded operating system that is widely used in the automotive industry and general engineering. Certicom is another core cyber-security asset in the BlackBerry portfolio, providing cryptographic and hardware key provisioning capabilities. BlackBerry acquired Certicom in 2009 for $106 million.

Cylance is the newest part of the BlackBerry portfolio, bringing along with it endpoint detection and response (EDR) in the Cylance Protect product and forensics with Cylance Optics. Cylance also recently expanded its portfolio with Persona, which provides user behavior analysis for anomaly detection.

"They [Cylance] have taken a problem and applied data science policies to it," Eagan said. "They basically have a machine learning workflow to get a model that works."

BlackBerry Network Operations Center

When BlackBerry was best known as a mobile handset vendor, a core element of the overall platform was the company's BlackBerry messaging service, which had its own network operations centers (NOC) and delivery systems. Eagan said BlackBerry is now making use of the same NOC infrastructure for cyber-security operations.

"We have a completely secure global network that touches every carrier on the planet that we can host secure service in," Eagan said.

BlackBerry at 35

BlackBerry was started 35 years ago as Research in Motion and has undergone multiple transitions over its existence. Eagan emphasized that though the technologies have changed, the core founding principles remain the same, which is all about trying to make a difference.

"We are trying to make a difference, we're trying to create privacy and security in an environment where it's very important," he said.

Given BlackBerry's legacy as a mobile device vendor, Eagan said he still needs to explain to people that BlackBerry is now a security software company and not a cell phone maker.

"Thank you for using a BlackBerry, if you did, but we have moved on," he said. "BlackBerry was and is very successful, and I'm hoping people will learn more about our new direction."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.