Apple enhances enterprise mobile device security with biometrics

Apple's acquisition of AuthenTec takes away Samsung's Android security tool and gives Apple a way to offer secure iPads and iPhones to enterprises.

Many IT shops consider BlackBerry the only enterprise-ready mobile device, but Apple's acquisition of AuthenTec gives the company a way to deliver iPhones and iPads with the level of mobile device security that businesses require.

With this acquisition, made quietly last week, Apple Inc. may also be able to undermine competitor Samsung, which uses AuthenTec Inc.'s biometric technology to secure Android devices.

Apple's consumer devices offer some security provisions, including device encryption, application sandboxing, application code signing, which prevents unsigned code from being run, and the configurator utility for mobile device management (MDM). But the technology Apple will gain from the Florida-based company gives Apple a way to deliver more of the security features IT pros have hoped for.

"This new IP would give Apple the opportunity to authenticate and manage data on iOS devices," said Tim Crawford, an independent enterprise IT consultant based in Mountain View, Calif.

Beyond device and information security from biometrics, AuthenTec's VPN client could give Apple the opportunity to extend its security reach to the network, similar to Research in Motion's (RIM) enterprise server, he added.

Move over RIM, here comes Apple

For now, BlackBerry remains the corporate sanctioned device of choice because rival platforms from Microsoft, Google and Apple don't offer the combination of integrated hardware, software and the network security that RIM's Blackberry provides, Crawford said.

However, that may not be the case for very long.

Despite its consumer-focus, Apple devices have already made their way into enterprises, thanks to the bring your own device (BYOD) trend. The number of iPhones in the enterprise has doubled last year and the number of iPads had tripled during the same time frame, Apple said during its most recent earnings conference call.

Apple refused to give hard adoption numbers, but a recent report (.pdf) suggests 70% of mobile devices activated in an enterprise during 2012 were either iPhones or iPads.

Further, Apple said the enterprise market is an important one for them going forward.

IT shops may welcome Apple's enterprise play as they seek a secure alternative to RIM for corporate-controlled devices, said Bob Egan, founder of the Sepharim Group, an enterprise mobility consulting firm based in Nantucket, Mass.

"Is Android going to grow to be an enterprise solution? A lot of companies are seriously discriminating against Android because malware attacks and Trojans keep showing up in legitimate apps," he said. Plus, companies are realizing they don't save money with BYOD, he added, which undercuts Android's typical use in organizations.

Windows mobile devices could also become a viable enterprise alternative to Blackberry if Microsoft puts several technology pieces together, but Apple has a huge advantage with users already, and the company seems to be taking enterprise security needs seriously, he said.

Biometrics -- the future of enterprise mobile security

This acquisition indicates security and identity will be key technologies for Apple going forward, said Benjamin Robbins, principal at Palador Inc., an enterprise mobility consulting firm based in Seattle, Wash.

"With biometrics you can use the fingerprint to tie your identity back to information stored in iCloud or something similar. Plus, fingerprints are more difficult to hack than a four number passcode," Robbins said.

"This puts them in a sweet spot. Imagine using a fingerprint on a device to bring up a user's identity, apps and data?" he added.

Fingerprint scanning technology has existed in corporate laptops for several years now, but it's only been in the latest models of powerful mobile devices where the possibility of having biometric security is possible, Egan said.

As laptops become stationary devices, and tablets and smartphones become enterprise mobile computers -- which can easily be lost or stolen -- the biometric approach to security for mobile devices is hugely "beneficial to IT" and "easy for users."

Apple pulls rug from under Samsung

AuthenTec not only makes iOS more secure, but could set back Apple's closest mobile competitors, said Ken Dulaney, a mobile analyst at Stamford, Conn. based research firm Gartner Inc.

One of AuthenTec's existing customers is Samsung Group, the largest maker of Android phones, accounting for half of the smartphones sold around the globe. In June, Samsung launched a program called SAFE that uses AuthenTec's various security products to help enterprise IT shops feel more comfortable about adopting the Android mobile platform.

It remains unclear, however, whether or not this acquisition will affect existing AuthenTec deals, Dulaney said, but there's a good chance it might.

Apple and Samsung are currently involved in a patent litigation case against one another, and even though "Apple doesn't do anything out of spite" in terms of its selective acquisitions, "it's probably a bonus they could impact Samsung's enterprise efforts as well," Robbins said.

Apple has not indicated its plans for AuthenTec, but it's not officially a done deal due to a pending investigation by a law firm over whether AuthenTec's board of directors failed to adequately shop the company and obtain the best possible value for shareholders.

Apple has agreed to purchase AuthenTec for approximately $356 million -- the equivalent of three days of profit for Apple. That figure represents a 58% premium on the stock price, which leads industry watchers to believe the investigation will be little more than a roadblock.

Dig Deeper on Enterprise mobile security

PRO+

Content

Find more PRO+ content and other member only offers, here.

Join the conversation

51 comments

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

If RIM goes away, what is your mobile platform of choice?
Cancel
Apple, of course.
Cancel
I love android
Cancel
Apple
Cancel
Windows Mobile – it will be the next big thing !
Cancel
Will definitely transition to Apple and some Android devices.
Cancel
Apple all the way! Come on now, Hackelicious Android, put it short, Android is PC as iOS is Mac.
Cancel
Biometrics - great idea until they hack it and then you need a new retina or finger print. Oh, wait...
Cancel
More dim-witted knee-jerk beliefs that biometrics means security. Do you leave copies of your house keys around? No. Do you leave copies of your fingerprints around? Yes. But keep running off that cliff, lemmings.
Cancel
It does not seen that RIM own the tablet market nor is that relevant for tablet corporate use. RIM was never an option in my organization - nor any other specific platform - so it seems that BYOD or one of the main contenders - Android or Apple - can potentially be selected as the option.
Cancel
But Windows Phone 8 will definitelly deserve a close look ane eventually become the preferred option over Apple.
Cancel
Apple is a robust, easy to use, stable platform to handle numberous things in the field...far better than any laptop or PC. Apple rules and yet I have always been an IBM guy...but for business? Software vendors may need to rethink their position. Apple is so much better at everything they do...not perfect...but better than IBM.
Cancel
I would always go for something opened if possible.
Cancel
I've been using fingerprint scanning on Android for 2+ years.
Cancel
We're doing a BYOD solution that allows Apple and Windows Phone 7 devices (no Androids). We did this in response to RIM's decling market share.
Cancel
Google or Samsung should take over RIM and incorporate RIM security features into Android even make a secure close Android OS that leverages an improved RIM infrastructure that is distributed and not dependent on the central RIM servers.

I like Apple, own their stuff too, but favocr the Droid. Go Android!
Cancel
Apple is not yet a trusted coporate player.
Cancel
Already dumped RIM and are totally on Apple iPhones.
Cancel
Apple is the most secure mobile in today's smartphone market.
I can't rely on unsecured and open Android device or can't keep updating patches on Microsoft phones.. Its Apple!!!
Cancel
Apple, provided in the enterprise for executive staff and BYOD support for other employees.
Cancel
love my android for the flexibility of it. I can add memory for example
Cancel
I can't stand to support Apple. If there was a better entertainment device than the iPod, I would opt for that an be completely Apple-free. Here's hoping.
Cancel
will never ever adopt or use apple.
Cancel
IT managers need consistency. With Android we have an OS that we can terminal into and operate much like a Linux machine. Add to that the physical buttons which gives us app operation consistency, unlike apps for iOS which can have screen-located operation buttons just about anywhere the developer wants. Android please!
Cancel
Secure Android Project should be more secure than an add on solution.
Cancel
windows 8 integrated in enterprise infrastructure
Cancel
Bu bye Blackberry
Cancel
hybrid Apple and Android
Cancel
I do not want to ensalved by the Apple empire and have my enterprise controlled like itunes.
Cancel
Like all technology, it comes; it goes.
Cancel
The greatest thing for me is that all the apps are pre-checked for malware and trojans, etc. Sure it slows down the introduction of new apps, but not as slow as things go once you have an infected device!
Cancel
I believe any open source OS is far superior to Apple or Microsoft OSes.
Cancel
Android? Windows phone? Why?
Cancel
iphones & android.. are just trying to kill each other....

Windows is the corporate main stay.... its not just for bling bling !!
Cancel
Android is fragmented and a security nightmare, Windows phone has a chance but a slim one. My money is on Apple.
Cancel
Apple too strict and too locked down - need more open environment for Physical Access via NFC...
Cancel
Home and office integration is becoming crucial
Cancel
First IBM ... then MS ... now Apple ... difficult to trust a vendor once they feel they have a virtual monopoly ...
Cancel
WP8 will crash the market
Cancel
Apple offers true ease of use.
Cancel
Apple is less vulnerable to Malware at this point.
Cancel
Apple will have the Lion's share - it's got the money to create its own full proof ecosystem and the price point to match...
Cancel
Apple is another name of Excellence.
So, repeating is a rare possibility.
Android, where collective efforts are possible, it is a safer alternative to bank on.
Cancel
Poor RIM, feel sorry for the company which invented smart phones, apple is the new giant and will remain in the market for long because of innovative tech.
Cancel
great to move to apple
Cancel
it's simpler and faster to develop iOS apps!
Cancel
I prefer for android mobile platform
Cancel
I'm sceptical as to whether any single company can 'own' the corporate mobile digital space. BYOD seems to me to be the most probable environment that most corporates should address in their mobile digital strategy.
Cancel
Still holding out hope for BB10
Cancel
Of course Apple tablets are more featury.
Cancel
If apple enters the mobile security architecture space, I am sure that the environment will be secure and will set the new standard for mobile security / network solutions.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

SearchNetworking

SearchTelecom

SearchUnifiedCommunications

SearchSecurity

Close