Sometimes there’s a temptation to think that cyberattacks are an unfortunate consequence of our ever-increasing interconnected digital world, which is underscored by the fact that most Americans walk around with a personal computer in their pocket. Cyberattacks, however, are nothing new.
In 1999, the so-called Melissa virus infected Microsoft Word documents and wreaked havoc on business and personal computers powered by Windows worldwide. It caused an estimated $80 million in damage and was the impetus behind the sales boom in anti-virus software, which has gained near universal acceptance since. Shortly after that, in 2000, a hacker dubbed Mafiaboy unleashed a series of distributed-denial-of-services (DDoS) attacks on a string of consumer sites, including Amazon, eBay, E*TRADE and Yahoo!, at the time the no. 1 search engine in the world. The blitz resulted in over $1 billion in damage.
Still, there’s no question that cybersecurity concerns have become more acute more recently. In all, cybersecurity lapses cost the global economy $450 billion last year and will exceed $2 trillion by 2021, according to estimates. That suggests that companies getting ensnarled in a hacking incident is as much an inevitability as it is a risk. The fallout will paralyze some businesses and entail massive PR problems (It took Target years to overcome the breach that took place during the holiday shopping season a few years ago), while for others the implications will be far worse.
Not surprisingly, then, the market for cybersecurity goods and services is expected to expand rapidly in the years ahead. According to the research firm Cybersecurity Ventures, global spending in this area will grow, year-over-year, by 12% to 15% until 2021, when it’s expected to exceed $1 trillion. This would seem to spell good news for cybersecurity firms such as FireEye, Symantec and Palo Alto Networks.
A more under-the-radar beneficiary, though, could be Blackberry. The company’s past troubles are well documented. It’s essentially the Blockbuster Video of smartphones, once controlling more than 50% of the market, only to see their dominant position implode once Apple and Alphabet developed superior operating systems. Blackberry has since shunned its hardware business entirely, announcing last year that it will focus on enterprise software and the emerging internet of things (IoT) industry.
As part of this evolution, the company last month launched a cybersecurity consulting division, the culmination of a fresh round of strategic acquisitions that beefed up its expertise in the area. In many ways, this is a natural evolution for Blackberry, which has long been a leader in encryption services. For years, it was the preferred handset provider for US government officials who trafficked sensitive information, including White House staff, members of Congress and the intelligence community, thanks, in part, for its reputation for successfully securing devices.
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