Apple Buys AuthenTec, a Samsung Partner, for $365 Million

Apple's $365 million buy of security company AuthenTec could give the iPhone and iPad an edge. Samsung recently penned a deal with AuthenTec for its mobile VPN technology.

Apple has purchased AuthenTec, a provider of mobile and network security solutions, for $365 million, Reuters reported July 27. The move gives Apple the ability to offer an extra layer of security for its iPad and iPhone devices.

Authentec offers a variety of security-themed products, from embedded security toolkits to smart sensors for PCs and fingerprint sensor technology. Earlier this month, Samsung, Apple's primary rival, chose Authentec's QuickSec virtual private network security to use in its Android smartphones and tablets.

The VPN "enhances the security of multiple new Android smartphones and tablets, providing users peace of mind that they can quickly and securely connect to their networks and the cloud," Authentec said in a July 16 statement, announcing the agreement with Samsung.

The technology is certain to help Samsung and Google, as they look to play a larger role in the enterprise market through bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. However, it's not clear what will happen now that Apple has bought AuthenTec, which it would use to bolster its own security offerings when it comes to iOS-based devices like the iPad and iPhone.

While other companies play in the BYOD market, it's the iPhone and the iPad that are focal points, as the two remain the most popular smartphone and tablet with consumers, as well as a growing list of businesses eager to offer employees more mobility choices.

Good Technology, another provider of security solutions, said in a July report that three Samsung devices€”the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Samsung Galaxy Note€”are among the top 10 mobile devices its customers activated during the second quarter. Rising device activations in Good's most popular industry vertical, finance, are believed to be "a direct result of the industry's continued embrace of the BYOD model," said the report.

Samsung devices also made headlines this week by being shown to be vulnerable to attacks through their near-field communication (NFC) features€”which the latest versions of Android particularly embrace. The finding, demonstrated at the Black Hat security conference by a research consultant with security firm Accuvant, could potentially put a damper on a technology that's expected to facilitate $180 billion of consumer purchases by 2017, according to Juniper Research. HTC, Research In Motion, Motorola, Nokia and others have all included NFC in their devices, and it's widely expected that Apple will include the technology in its next iPhone.

Ezra Gottheil, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research, believes the exposure of the NFC vulnerability is a necessary part of deploying a new technology, but the AuthenTec purchase could still offer Apple a way to set itself apart.

"AuthenTec has worked with Apple in the past, and has, among other things, fingerprint authentication technology," Gottheil told eWEEK. "A good biometric authentication technology for mobile devices would solve a big problem€”the conflict between always-on and authentication. To be good, the technology must be both secure and easy to use. If you can reliably authenticate with the same swipe with which you turn on the device, security is immensely improved."

On July 26, the Securities and Exchange Commission released an announcement about the deal, though neither company announced their deal on their Websites. Apple is notoriously mum about its dealings.

At the "D10: All Things D" event in May, Apple CEO Tim Cook agreed to be interviewed by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg before the audience, though set the tone for the conversation by saying, as he sat, "Never have I seen the things I can't talk about today."

When Swisher asked whether Apple was planning any acquisitions, Cook, according to a transcript from MacRumors, answered: "We continue to buy companies. They aren't ones we seek to make public."

"Eventually you have to tell us," Swisher shot back.

"Depends on the value," answered Cook. "If I don't have to, I won't. That's part of the doubling down."

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