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Did Apple Buy Fingerprint Security Firm For Mobile Wallet?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the or-just-keeping-those-angry-birds-safe dept.

Cellphones 35

Hugh Pickens writes "Reuters reports that Apple will buy fingerprint sensor technology developer AuthenTec for about $356 million, striking a deal that could help Apple bring fingerprint technology, already used in mobile phones in Japan for authentication of mobile payments, to markets such as the United States, where mobile-wallet services have been slow to catch on. Some analysts expect the iPhone 5 to include some form of mobile payments technology. 'In the past 5 years, the growth of iPhone and Android smartphones has made mobile data security essential, not just a "nice-to-have" feature,' says Ben Yu, Managing Director of Sierra Ventures, one of the early investors in AuthenTec. 'People have their whole lives on the phones.' AuthenTec's embedded fingerprint scanners and other identity-related software is particularly useful now that Near Field Communications, or NFC-enabled, phones have begun to appear in the market. Analyst Colin Gillis says AuthenTec technology could potentially also help Apple combat problems such as theft of its more portable products such as iPhones. 'If they could have a way where they could tie the phone to a user more tightly, that would make sense for them,' says Gillis. The price tag for AuthenTec is a drop in the bucket of Apple's cash pile of $117.2 billion. 'We'll see if it's a one-off or if Tim Cook will start to level his cash balance and acquire talent,' adds Gillis."

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Happy Saturday from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40800925)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Happy Saturday from the Golden Girls! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40800965)

Nobody is going to fall for it this time.... (fingers crossed)

That's the heart of the scam (3, Funny)

Teresita (982888) | more than 2 years ago | (#40800999)

Transform technology to nearly 100% mobile, then incorporate fingerprint-based biometric confirmation inside the devices themselves so the NSA has total awareness of the movements and activities of everyone on the planet, based on the smudges people leave on their toys.

Re:That's the heart of the scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801127)

Normally I don't have my tinfoil hat on so early in the morning, but I totally agree.

Plus, with 100% digital along with the associated paper trail, apple, google, et al. can have all the more data to combine and market.

Re:That's the heart of the scam (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40802361)

If the NSA can pull fingerprints off my favorite toy, I have other problems.

Better Than a Password? (1)

DesertJazz (656328) | more than 2 years ago | (#40801003)

I don't know how much better this would be than a password or the pattern unlock idea... Fingerprint scanners can be fooled, and a financial incentive to do so would make it tempting for thieves anyway. I guess it'll keep the honest people honest though. It would be quicker than either of the first two in theory. I can't see apple wanting to clutter up their devices with a scanner somewhere though, this is probably just a patent grab.

Re:Better Than a Password? (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 2 years ago | (#40801035)

If it could be done through the screen or on the back on the device, it would be fantastic, Fingerprint to confirm RFC purchase, fingerprint to unlock screen, etc. It's quick, and less open to hacking than gesture based unlocks.

Bonus patent grab, and to piss off Samsung, who I think also use their tech.

Re:Better Than a Password? (5, Informative)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 2 years ago | (#40801095)

It's used by a few Manufacturers

"AuthenTec, spun off from Harris Semiconductor in 1998 and which went public in 2007, provides mobile security software licenses to companies like Samsung, and fingerprint sensor technology to computer makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) and Dell Inc (DELL.O)."

More here

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/27/us-authentec-acquisition-apple-idUSBRE86Q0KD20120727 [reuters.com]

Re:Better Than a Password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801705)

Less open to hacking? Hopefully it works better than the 'state of the art' stuff the Mythbusters tested out a few years ago. All of that turned out to be no more than security theater IMHO.

Re:Better Than a Password? (1)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 2 years ago | (#40804957)

Mythbusters found a lot of the state of the art stuff to be breakable, but for the fingerprint unlock they needed to actually get someone's fingerprint first.

Re:Better Than a Password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801371)

Given that you physically leave your authentication token on the case of the device every time you use it ... bad idea. Copying fingerprints is trivial. Google it.

Re:Better Than a Password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40802513)

Not just the case of the device. Everything you touch. Eat a meal at a restaurant for lunch? Don't throw your wrapper and soda cup in the trash, they are covered in your "password". Or maybe we can all start wearing gloves all day, taking them off every single time our screen times out and goes black. Yeah. I think that would work. :(

Re:Better Than a Password? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40803203)

I don't get why people keep thinking of fingerprints as passwords when everything about them screams, "non-unique username."

Re:Better Than a Password? (1)

cranky_chemist (1592441) | more than 2 years ago | (#40802825)

Worse than easily fooled...

to quote Lt. Commander Data:

"I assume your hand will open this door whether you are conscious or not."

Re:Better Than a Password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40803225)

Not to mention that you spread the key everywhere you go, unless you are wearing gloves all the time.

Re:Better Than a Password? (1)

skegg (666571) | more than 2 years ago | (#40806633)

Whenever biometric security is discussed, I always think of a particular scene in Demolition Man ...

See 1 minute 35 seconds [youtube.com]

Re:Better Than a Password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40803059)

Can't you just get the fingerprints off the device exterior? How is this secure?

Re:Better Than a Password? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40803437)

You don't understand. Biometrics don't replace password. They replace username. They are undoubtfuly better than conventional plaintext ascii username.

Or for the patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801137)

Speaking of which, what about its upcoming battle with VirnetX, which has been picked up by the financial press, but utterly overlooked by the tech community?

They did it to piss off Samsung (3, Interesting)

oztiks (921504) | more than 2 years ago | (#40801319)

Re:They did it to piss off Samsung (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40802509)

In other news, Apple sues every human with fingerprints for violating their newly acquired patents.

Re:They did it to piss off Samsung (1)

SilenceBE (1439827) | more than 2 years ago | (#40802903)

Pfff there is one snag in your conspiracy theory. Samsung is a conglomeration that exists out of different individual entities that mostly operate in-depended and has its own goals.

There is a big chance that the division that license that IP to develop chips is the same division that also provide Apple with electronics. It isn't because the "mobile" devision is in conflict with Apple, that the rest of the divisions are at war.

In my opinion it is an extremely simplified view if you see those companies as a whole.

Re:They did it to piss off Samsung (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40803735)

It is also possible they did it to aggressives control the supply line for the iPad and iPhone. It is through this control that Apple is able to deliver a premium and unique product. They now own the technology they will likely use in these devices. Lack of such foresight is why Android makes are paying MS maybe $10 a device to cross license technology, presumably the *nix core is a major part of this as MS believes that all the *nix technology has been stolen from MS.

It could be that Apple will use this to gain normal FRAND access to technology. I don't know if Samsung is not complying with the contractual agreement, or if Apple is abusing the agreement, but this would certainly be leverage for Apple. Any licensing agreements that Apple has asked for outside of the FRAND tech is irrelevant. Samsung has already shown a willingness, with MS, to pay for questionable tech if it means that lawsuit will be avoided.

That is to not to say that Apple would not do this just to be aggressive. It is arguable that Maps on iOS is funding Android development, certainly Google makes no significant money from Andoid, SO apple is replacing maps, probably at a far greater expense.

Re:They did it to piss off Samsung (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40805561)

It is also possible they did it to aggressives control the supply line for the iPad and iPhone.

Nah. AuthenTec is far from the only maker of compact, embeddable, cost-effective fingerprint scanners -- even assuming that fingerprint authentication on your phone is a good idea.

All part of setup for when Marty shows up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801373)

Hey kid, thumb a hundred bucks will ya, help save the clock tower.

Tying more tightly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801457)

Get paranoid and buy a pair of armored gloves if your iPhone gets stolen. Or, since DHS is snapping all of the body armor up for the conventions, everybody could have RFID chips implanted.

Oh, wait...

Maybe time for another 1984 ad, Apple?

Terrible Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801473)

Doesn't the fact that phones are covered with their owner's fingerprints, make this a pretty terrible security measure?

Apple already has mobile wallet near at hand... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40801555)

It's called Passbook, announced with iOS6. Apple wants none of this NFC or other such nonsense.

Too Dangerous to Society (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801681)

It is far too dangerous to allow Apple to have/patent secure payment platforms. Conversely, this would be like Bank of America launching a mobile-phone division so that it can capture all impulse banking transactions.

What happens when Apple mainstreams the patented payment platform, and thus the only way payments can be made is through Apple products, because no-one else can use the patented product!

Soon, you will see the Bank of Apple. And the Bank of Apple will be like all other banks, entitled to continue onward without any effort or care for it's customers. It will be like PayPal; you will only be able to pay for iTunes purchases through BoA, and you must have an iPhone to make payments to your BoA debts.

Re:Too Dangerous to Society (1)

starblazer (49187) | more than 2 years ago | (#40804381)

oh, so like the Bank of eBay.... PayPal?

does anyone care? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#40801877)

no

Re:does anyone care? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40801971)

You cared enough to comment. Just gotta get your apple hate out haven't you? It must feel a bit like when you come.

Finger Prints are Unique? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40805511)

I thought that front line special showed they are not. Finger print science like much of forensic science seems to be on shakey scientific ground in terms of corroborating research.

No worries (1)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40806009)

"Mobile wallets" haven't caught on in the US because banks refuse to play ball. Apple may have $100 billion in cash, but that cash is in banks. US banks have absolutely no intention of being pushed around by Apple, and Apple has no leverage with them. Does anybody imagine Bank of America is going to let go of their per-transaction profitability and account fees?

So what is Apple to do? Become the next PayPal? I suppose it's not impossible, but it sounds like a strange move for them.

Identity != Authentication (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40807983)

Once again, everybody now:

Identity is NOT authentication.

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