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Apple Beefs Up Mobile Security with AuthenTec Buy

Apple Beefs Up Mobile Security with AuthenTec Buy
July 27, 2012 12:27PM

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If AuthenTec's deal with Samsung offers any clues, with the acquisition and subsequent integration Apple iPhones and iPads equipped with AuthenTec's VPN Client will be ready to connect to enterprise networks the moment they are unboxed. That would eliminate the need for IT administrators to install a separate VPN application.

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Apple appears to be looking for ways to beef up security. The firm just snapped up AuthenTec, a security technology provider, for $355 million.

AuthenTec has made a name for itself in the mobile and network security worlds. Its tech helps protect people and organizations through secure networking, content and data protection, access control and fingerprint security on PCs and mobile devices.

Perhaps ironically, Apple rival Samsung just selected AuthenTec's VPN security to beef up enterprise security on new Android smartphone and tablets in mid-July. AuthenTec's QuickSec Mobile VPN Client for Android continues to gain traction and broad acceptance in the market. Apple may shut down the Android side as it integrates the tech into its devices, leaving Samsung looking for a new partner.

Out of the Box Security

The need for VPN security that allows smartphone and tablet users to easily and securely connect to enterprise networks continues to grow. According to Cisco, by the end of 2012 the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on the earth.

If AuthenTec's deal with Samsung offers any clues, Apple iPhones and iPads equipped with AuthenTec's VPN Client will be ready to connect to enterprise networks the moment they are unboxed. That would eliminate the need for IT administrators to install a separate VPN application.

Apple, though, may not rein in the technology all for itself. AuthenTec's products and technologies provide security on hundreds of millions of devices, and the company has shipped more than 100 million fingerprint sensors for integration in a wide range of portable electronics, including more than 15 million mobile phones.

AuthenTec's customers include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Fujitsu, HBO, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Samsung, Sky and Texas Instruments.

Safeguarding Biometrics Data

Michael Disabato, managing vice president of telecom and networking at Gartner, said he sees pros and cons with implementing the technology.

"If they try to cloud this, it's a bad idea unless the cloud is your iCloud and it's secure. You can't change your iris. You can't change your thumbprint. That's the reason I've hated biometrics. Once you've compromised your palm print what are you going to do? You can use the other palm, but what happens next?" Disabato asked.

Disabato is betting Apple will see this technology as an opportunity to implement a unified, single sign-on to all Apple devices a consumer owns. Consumers who own a MacBook, an iPhone and an iPad could link all three together on iCloud and sign in with a fingerprint swipe.

"As soon as I buy a new iPhone and sync it up, it would be secure. I would just rub my finger across it. Apple needs to make real sure, however, that the biometric information is not a centralized database -- it needs to be linked only to your iCloud account," Disabato told us.

"So if I decide I want to leave my iCloud account I don't have to worry about my biometrics sitting on some server like Google does with all my e-mail. This is an important design point."

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