Blackberry delves deeper into security with AtHoc purchase

The BlackBerry Security Summit shows a company now focused on offering end-to-end security for governments and business

BlackBerry researcher Graham Murphy shows how to hack into an infusion pump, during a demonstration at the BlackBerry Security Summit, July 23, 2015.

BlackBerry researcher Graham Murphy shows how to hack into an infusion pump, during a demonstration at the BlackBerry Security Summit, July 23, 2015.

BlackBerry continues to shift its focus from selling mobile phones to securing them -- as well as other portable devices, and increasingly connected items that are part of the Internet of things.

"All of our investments and acquisitions go to one thing, to make the most secure mobile platform that the industry has to offer," said John Chen, BlackBerry executive chairman and CEO, kicking off a morning of presentations at the company-sponsored BlackBerry Security Summit, held Thursday in New York.

BlackBerry still sells handsets, but, to judge from the day's presentations, it clearly sees a brighter future now in enterprise mobile security, where it can best leverage its remaining strengths in the market.

On Wednesday, the company announced it is planning to purchase the Waterloo, Ontario-based AtHoc, which provides a software platform for sending out alert messages to smart phones and other digital devices.

BlackBerry's AtHoc purchase -- financial terms were undisclosed -- is one of a number of the company has made in the last year to bulk up its security-related software and services. Last year, it purchased SecuSmart, which offered services to encrypt telephone messages.

In April, BlackBerry purchased WatchDox, which offered software to securely share documents across multiple devices.

Thus far, AtHoc has found considerable success in the U.S. market. Its alerts can reach over three million U.S. government personnel, chiefly in the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security.

BlackBerry plans to roll the AtHoc technology into its own global BlackBerry Messaging service (BBN), offering its customers the capabilities worldwide, said Marty Beard, BlackBerry chief operating officer. Thus far, AtHoc's own coverage been largely limited to the U.S.

The AtHoc technology could be used to send out alerts about extreme weather conditions, potentially disruptive events or other vital information. The U.S. Transportation Security Agency uses the technology in airports, for instance, to notify TSA officers when a person of suspicious intent has been identified.

Since the launch of the iPhone in 2007, BlackBerry has lost a considerable chunk of the handset market, as more feature-friendly Android devices and iPhones caught the attention of consumers and business.

When Chen took the helm in November 2013, he focused on the company's strong expertise in securing phones, a by-product of BlackBerry's aggressive pursuit of the government market as well as the market for businesses that require highly secure communications.

The company has since extended BBN to support Android, iOS and mobile Windows devices as well, freeing potential customers from purchasing BlackBerry gear and offering a single platform to manage the security of multiple devices.

The company also plans to move into the rapidly growing Internet of things market, an area that is in dire need of security, said David Kleidermacher, BlackBerry chief security officer, during his presentation.

For the summit, the company demonstrated how easy it is to hack into an infusion pump, a medical device that can deliver morphine or other medications to an ailing patient.

On stage, BlackBerry researcher Graham Murphy walked through the process of gaining entry to the pump, which had an Ethernet port and an onboard computer. Using the device's default password, easily discoverable on the Internet, he was able to break into the machine and upload a program that could override the existing software.

The market for machine-to-machine technologies and services will top $4.3 trillion by 2024, the company estimated.

"As connectivity increases, the needs for security and privacy exponentially increase," Beard said. "As we get into the Internet of things, the real value will come from the data connectivity and the application connectivity."

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Blackberrysecurity

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?