It wasn’t that long ago that Blackberry (BB) was the top of everyone’s want list – then iPhones and other smartphone makers seemed to take the market out from under BB until the company almost melted into oblivion. But BB had other plans and over the last several years, they’ve been working from a different angle. Security for smartphones and computer systems became their focus as they quietly edged upward in that field.
BB’s CEO, John Chen, announced a new deal between BB and the U.S. Senate Sergeant of Arms’ office in DC for a five-year contract. BB, a Canadian company, will secure software used in the U.S capital complex during crises. The multi-million-dollar order for BB’s AtHoc system will take a few months before it is fully integrated, but once it is in place, it will provide communication and notification across a secure system for up to 50,000 people in the Capitol complex. The system includes the U.S. Coast Guard’s warning system in the DC area, allowing those members to respond to and receive emergency alerts via their computers.
In transitioning to the security field, BB still faces a big challenge. Many believe that their security systems only work with BB phones. Not true. Rudi Giuliani, former NYC Mayor and current chairman of Greenberg Traurig LLP’s cybersecurity, privacy, and crisis management division while speaking at a BB conference in mid-July, said BB’s security among enterprise customers remains untarnished, and BB’s security works on operating systems for Android, Apple, and other rival smartphones. Giuliani offered his comments without any personal gain for him, and he has no current relationship with BB.
Chen is optimistic both because of this new contract as well as what the future holds for his company. With all the cybersecurity hacks in recent years, companies are looking for answers that work. Federal and state regulators are now requiring cybersecurity systems be in place for many types of business as well. There’s nothing but growth ahead as Chen sees it. “The regulators come in and say (to boards) ‘show me your cybersecurity’.”
Along with leading BB, Chen is a board member for Walt Disney Co. and Wells Fargo.