BlackBerry sets up cybersecurity consulting service

Based on purchase of UK company

BARCELONA -- BlackBerry on Wednesday announced a new 60-person cybersecurity consulting service, which will include staff from its recent acquisition of UK-based Encription Limited.

The purchase of Encription was completed Feb. 19, but terms were not disclosed.

BlackBerry officials at Mobile World Congress said cybersecurity consulting is a lucrative field because of a global explosion of cyberattacks on businesses and governments.

Data breaches cost the global economy more than $400 billion a year, BlackBerry said, citing 2015 data from the Ponemon Institute. Gartner said cybersecurity consulting is about a $16.5 billion annual global business, and that it is expected to grow to $23 billion by 2019.

There is even potential that U.S. government agencies would hire BlackBerry's cybersecurity group, since BlackBerry already has contracts with U.S. agencies related to its software and security-related tools, BlackBerry officials said. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company doesn't expect resistance from the U.S. government to conduct consulting work even though it is not a U.S.-based company, they said.

BlackBerry's security products have often been called the "gold standard" in the industry, and the company believes it can capitalize on that tradition in setting up the service, BlackBerry officials said.

Consultants at Encription have been used by the UK government, and the company has deep technical skills at penetration testing, a technique that mimics the activities of malicious hackers to help make organizations aware of cybersecurity risks.

Marty Beard, chief operating officer at BlackBerry, told reporters that there is "incredibly strong talent" in the Encription organization, both with software and hardware. "They are very stealthy," he said.

The consulting group will address strategic and technical security, as well as conduct threat detection, penetration testing and analysis, BlackBerry said. Another piece of the consulting service will be automotive and Internet of Things security.

BlackBerry had been performing penetration testing with advanced automotive systems being developed by carmakers, but needed to add more resources to meet the demand. In a typical new car, there are now more than 100 computers, which creates more potential vulnerabilities.

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