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Jan 15, 2018

BlackBerry unveils cybersecurity program Jarvis for automobiles, ramping up bet on cars

BlackBerry CEO Chen on opportunities in the auto market and strategy from here

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BlackBerry has unveiled a new a cloud-based cybersecurity program called Jarvis, designed to identify vulnerabilities in automotive software.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company says Jarvis will allow carmakers to monitor software development at various production stages by scanning binary files, and offer the ability to assess the software being used as well as evaluating new software that may be under consideration.

The company's TSX-listed shares rose 53 cents, or 3.12 per cent to trade at $17.53 as of 3:27 p.m. ET.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen told BNN in an interview Monday that Jarvis aims to improve quality control over computer code that goes into the modern car, which Chen said is essentially a rolling computer.

“It’s about being a rolling computer, and in this particular computer it has over 100 million lines of code, probably collaborated by over 50 to 100 sources of people providing technology,” Chen told BNN. “So, Jarvis manages the quality level and the life cycle of everything that comes together and making sure that the cybersecurity is safe.”

“It’s to protect the well-being of the passenger and, of course, the vehicle itself.”

Chen unveiled BlackBerry’s new product during a keynote address at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.

He told BNN that while Jarvis’ current function is monitoring code and utilizing BlackBerry’s security standards, the program may eventually be able to offer its own solutions.

“It’s a life-cycle management software that is in the cloud. Then, you upload your code from various different sources and we’ll check the rules and the integrity of that code to make sure that it is cybersecurity ready,” Chen told BNN.  “We also added the BlackBerry technique to it, because we have – over the last 30 years – a lot of security know-how and experience to know what to look for in a piece of code to make it cybersecurity-ready.”

Chen said that BlackBerry plans to enhance Jarvis in “ threat analysis detection, remediation and to not only make your car alert[ed] of the problems, but also help solve the issues.”

The product, which BlackBerry calls “a transformational cybersecurity product” has already been tested with Jaguar’s Land Rover.

“In our independent study, Jarvis delivered excellent efficiencies in time-to-market, significantly reducing the time to security assess code from 30 days to seven minutes,” said Dr. Ralf Speth, CEO, Jaguar Land Rover said in a release. “The productivity delivered by Jarvis combined with BlackBerry’s trusted security heritage can transform vehicle safety.”

Chen believes Jarvis is just the latest step in BlackBerry's evolution.

"We’re getting into a number of different functions,” Chen told BNN. “If you think about it, you just multiply it. We started in infotainment ... I think the opportunities are really, really big. We just need to stay focused and execute.”