Apple Buying Mobile Security Vendor AuthenTec For $355 Million

The acquisition, announced in an 8-K filing that AuthenTec submitted to the Security Exchange Commission Friday, will cost Apple $8 a share or about $355 million, according to a figure provided by The Wall Street Journal.

AuthenTec manufactures a range of secure networking, content and data protection technologies used in both PCs and mobile devices. But the Melbourne, Fla.-based company is best known for its fingerprint sensors and identify management software, used to block the access of unauthorized users on notebooks, smartphones, and tablets.

According to AuthenTec’s Web site, it has shipped more than 100 million fingerprint sensors to major OEMs, including Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Nokia, and Cisco. Nearly 15 million of those shipments were specific to mobile phones.

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Most recently, AuthenTec announced a new alliance with Samsung, through which it will supply its QuickSec VPN security solution for use in Samsung’s Android-based smartphones and tablets. QuickSec, which is to be included natively in Samsung’s Galaxy line of mobile devices, will allow users to connect to corporate networks more securely, a feature that could fuel their adoption among enterprise users as the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend continues to permeate the corporate world.

Ironically, Samsung is one of the biggest rivals to AuthenTec’s soon-to-be parent company Apple. The two tech giants, which have risen to become the clear-cut leaders in the worldwide smartphone market, have been entangled in a global patent war for months now, spurred by Apple’s initial accusations last year that Samsung infringed on iPad design patents when building its own Galaxy Tab 10.1 device.

Apple has not released a formal statement on its planned acquisition of AuthenTec, and did not immediately respond to CRN’s request for a comment.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company, however, is poised to bolster its security portfolio with the pending AuthenTec acquisition, potentially putting to rest speculation that its iOS and Mac OS X operating systems aren’t sufficiently secure for the enterprise.

In a similar effort to dispel these beliefs, Apple made its debut appearance at the security-focused Black Hat conference in Las Vegas this week, with Dallas De Atlet, manager of the platform security team at Apple, leading a session focused specifically on iOS security technologies.

Apple also published last month a 20-page document detailing the security underpinnings of iOS, in its first public disclosure of such information.