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BlackBerry acquires Cylance to cement security capability

BlackBerry moves forward with its plans to establish itself as an enterprise security firm, focusing on internet-connected endpoints

BlackBerry has announced that it has completed the acquisition of Cylance, making the company a billion-dollar cyber security firm.

BlackBerry announced the agreement to acquire Cylance for $1.4bn in cash in November 2018. The completion of the deal will help the former mobile device maker and operating system (OS) developer BlackBerry to move further towards the goal of becoming a leading cyber security firm.

In the face of increasing competition from Apple and Google, the company discontinued its BlackBerry OS for mobile devices in 2013 and in 2017 left the device market, subsequently turning its attention to enterprise mobility management software and securing and managing internet-connected endpoints.

“Today, BlackBerry took a giant step forward toward our goal of being the world’s largest and most trusted AI [artificial intelligence]-cyber security company,” said John Chen, executive chairman and CEO of BlackBerry.

“Securing endpoints and the data that flows between them is absolutely critical in today’s hyper-connected world. By adding Cylance’s technology to our arsenal of cyber security solutions, we will help enterprises intelligently connect, protect and build secure endpoints that users can trust.”

Cylance’s machine learning and AI technology is a strategic addition to BlackBerry’s end-to-end secure communications portfolio. In particular, Cylance’s embeddable AI technology is expected to accelerate the development of BlackBerry Spark, the secure communications platform for the internet of things (IoT).

Designed for ultra security and industry-specific safety certifications, such as ISO 26262 in vehicles, BlackBerry Spark taps into the company’s existing security portfolio of technology that includes FIPS-validated, app-level, AES 256-bit encryption to ensure data is always protected.

According to the company, BlackBerry Spark enables organisations to comply with stringent multi-national regulatory requirements, having achieved Common Criteria evaluation assurance level 4+ for both iOS and Android.

In January, BlackBerry announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that it would license its trusted software framework to enable device makers to build smart products securely without having to develop their own technology and cyber security expertise.

Once developed, BlackBerry’s team of cyber security experts will review each device, awarding BlackBerry Secure certification to show that the required level of data security and trust has been met.

At the time of the licensing announcement, Alex Thurber, senior vice-president and general manager of mobility solutions at BlackBerry, described the initiative as “a pivotal point” in BlackBerry’s software licensing strategy. “It underscores BlackBerry’s evolution from providing the most secure smartphones to delivering the trusted security for all smart ‘things’,” he said.

Cylance founder, CEO and president Stuart McClure is to continue as president of Cylance, which BlackBerry said will operate as a separate business unit within the company. McClure will “continue to apply his visionary math-based approach” to threat detection, prevention and response, as well as lead Cylance’s team of engineers and data scientists, BlackBerry said.  

According to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, the potential for a digital catastrophe due to an intentional or accidental breach has never been higher, given the increasing threat landscape and the world’s rapidly growing reliance on connected IoT devices.

“BlackBerry has been the leading independent supplier focused on securing these devices and their now approved acquisition of Cylance makes this a critical game changing moment for the company and the IoT industry. In today’s hostile world, security isn’t an option, it is a requirement,” he said.

Brian Partridge, research vice-president at 451 Research, said the acquisition gives BlackBerry advanced security technology that it can deploy within its existing platforms. “It also provides a complementary fit in terms of market vision and customer focus,” he said.

Daniel Shuler, chief information security officer of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, said it has been clear for a while now that mobile devices are the evolving attack vector that enterprises are not ready to defend. “A combination of mobile experts and AI security experts could be just what we’ve been looking for,” he said.

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