BlackBerry to strengthen mobile security with WatchDox acquisition

BlackBerry continues its strong rebound from what was widely seen as a deathwatch not that long ago by acquiring WatchDox, which will also form the basis of a new security-focused BlackBerry R&D center in Israel.

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Billy Ho, BlackBerry Executive Vice President, Enterprise Products and Value Added Solutions

Waterloo-based BlackBerry, even in its darkest hours, still commanded great respect for the strength of the security on its platform. Now the company has reinforced that area of strength, with the acquisition of data security vendor WatchDox. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, although the Wall Street Journal has estimated it to be around $USD 70 million.

Originally a product of the very active Israeli high-tech security industry, WatchDox moved its corporates offices to Palo Alto while keeping its R&D facilities in Israel. It established a reputation as a best-in-class enterprise file-sync-and-share (EFSS) provider, validated by Gartner’s recognition of them as a Magic Quadrant Visionary.

“WatchDox allows users to protect, share and work with their files on any device,” said Moti Rafalin, WatchDox’s co-founder and CEO. “WatchDox security travels with documents to give organizations full visibility and control over how files are edited, copied, printed or forwarded. The solution also allows end users to revoke access or delete files remotely, and gives administrators the ability to remotely lock or remove access to files compromised in a data breach.”

Rafalin, who previously was the General Manager of the Application Management Business at EMC before starting up WatchDox in 2008, said that a key WatchDox differentiation is its ability to deliver effective digital rights management (DRM) in a non-clunky manner.

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Moti Rafalin, WatchDox’s co-founder and CEO

“The missing ingredient in most end-to-end security frameworks is DRM,” he said. “DRM-protected documents are able to prevent unauthorized users from accessing them, and can be set to self-destruct if they fall into the wrong hands. The trick is making DRM seamless because cumbersome and buggy applications are not compatible with the needs of collaboration and mobility. Security is only effective if it doesn’t get in the way of doing business. Otherwise, it gets circumvented.”

BlackBerry’s acquisition of WatchDox, much like its purchase of voice and data encryption provider Secusmart last year, broadens out its security capabilities further. It adds enterprise file-sync-and share to BlackBerry’s abilities to secure communications end-to-end from voice, text, messaging, data.

“The evolution of cross-platform EMM requires a secure content solution that is dependable and designed to work across devices and operating systems,” said Billy Ho, BlackBerry Executive Vice President, Enterprise Products and Value Added Solutions. “We identified WatchDox as an ideal addition to our portfolio. The WatchDox product offering is differentiated from competitors by offering true data-centric security with multiple deployment capabilities both on-premises and in the cloud.”

Ho also said that the acquisition also expands BlackBerry’s customer base and EMM market growth, while adding new capabilities to their security.

“Immediately upon the close of the transaction, we anticipate offering it as a value-added solution to our customers,” Ho said. “It also will be integrated with BES12 [the foundation for BlackBerry’s enterprise security, mobility, productivity, and communication and collaboration services] enabling organizations to securely connect workforce within the enterprise or outside the enterprise with information across all mobile platforms.”

The acquisition of WatchDox will form the basis of a new security-focused BlackBerry R&D center in Israel.

“This gives BlackBerry its first R&D presence in Israel, a market known for technology innovation,” Ho stated.