Giuliani Says BlackBerry Can Help Make the World Safe Again

  • Former New York mayor runs a cybersecurity consulting business
  • Choice of Trump supporter seen as potentially risky for brand

BlackBerry Ltd. got some free publicity when former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, fresh from a bellicose performance at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, touted the Canadian company’s security bona fides in a speech.

The potential for terrorists to hack targets like hospitals or police communication networks is one of the biggest threats facing the world, Giuliani said at an event Tuesday held by BlackBerry in New York to showcase its stable of software products.

Most companies are creating new technologies without enough thought for how to keep them secure, Giuliani said, sporting a tie decorated with elephants, the Republican Party symbol. “BlackBerry on the other hand, their corporate culture began as device security,” he said.

The former politician is now chairman of the cybersecurity, privacy and crisis management practice at the law firm Greenberg Traurig. He was not paid for the speech and has no formal business relationship with BlackBerry.

BlackBerry is working to increase revenue from security-focused software products as questions linger over the viability of its smartphone business. The company announced Tuesday it signed a deal to provide an emergency notification system for the U.S. Senate. The Waterloo, Ontario-based company used the New York event to hammer home its view that companies aren’t prepared to fend off hackers and will need to buy more software that helps control how information is stored and shared.

Eventually, regulators will require companies to have certain levels of cybersecurity, whether they want to or not, Chief Executive Officer John Chen said. In an interview after the speech, Giuliani said the U.S. needs a new government agency to ensure companies are protecting their clients and customers from security threats.

The choice of Giuliani as a brand ambassador was a risky one for BlackBerry given how partisan he has become in his support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, said Allen Adamson, who runs the branding firm BrandSimple Consulting.

“It clearly is a questionable choice, a risky choice,” Adamson said. “Maybe they booked this a while ago. Six months ago Giuliani was a politician, but not nearly as polarizing as in the past three months.”

On Monday night Giuliani fired up delegates at the Republican convention by denouncing President Barack Obama’s record on terrorism and the nuclear deal with Iran. He made a point of declaring that America’s main enemy is "Islamic extremist terrorism” and said the country didn’t have “time to repeat our mistakes of the Clinton-Obama years.”

Choosing Giuliani shows BlackBerry isn’t as concerned about its perception among average consumers as it was in the past, Adamson said.

“To some extent it’s a signal that they’ve thrown in the towel on any meaningful consumer brand management,” he said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.