Apple pays £226m for digital security company Authentec

By Peter Gothard
27 Jul 2012 View Comments
Apple iPhone

Apple has acquired digital security firm Authentec for $356m (£226.4m), in a move that should boost the firm's chances of carving out a large chunk of the e-wallet market with its forthcoming Passbook offering.

David Froud, director of delivery at security and compliance firm Trustwave, said the acquisition shows that Apple realises its devices currently lack the security needed to handle highly sensitive payment data.

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"Mobile application is a function that is very much desired by the general population," Froud told Computing."

"They want ease of use when it comes to virtually everything. In terms of security, there is currently no app, and no standardisation for security in mobile applications. What Apple is doing is trying to provide that kind of security across iOS."

Authentec currently provides both hardware and software security solutions for the likes of Samsung, Nokia and Cisco, and Froud believes Apple will be investigating security improvements in both these areas, but with more of a focus on the latter.

"[Apple] has clearly tasked Authentec with developing a 2D-type fingerprinting chip, which I assume will go into the new iPhone, and which can properly authenticate what is being held on the phone itself," said Froud.

"I have no idea how they're going to build this into the iPhone, but it'll probably be in an application, not a via a pad," said Froud. "I don't know of anyone who's been able to do this yet, on a touch screen on a small device."

Froud said security is absolutely central to Apple's ambition to become the dominant e-wallet platform.

"I would absolutely love [to have all my details in one place], but as a security guy I have to step back and ask ‘Yes, but how are you going to truly secure my data?'," Froud told Computing.

"When you're dealing with PA-DSS (Payment Application Data Security Standard) stuff, you have access to the whole system, the OS, all of it," said Froud. "There's no standard. But Apple aren't going to want to give [developers] access to the whole OS for a mobile payment, so they need to do something now in order to continue the growth of mobile applications, which is definitely where this is all going."

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