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Microsoft steps up its mobile security game

Microsoft has announced the acquisition of PhoneFactor, an 11-year old firm specializing in mobile security, for an undisclosed sum. As eWeek explains, the deal centers on PhoneFactor’s authentication technology designed to protect enterprise-deployed mobile apps for customers and employees.

PhoneFactor has worked with Microsoft’s products and services for years, and Microsoft said the acquisition will help enable Redmond’s customers and developer partners “enhance the security of almost any authentication scenario.” The company’s “two-factor” authentication grants access to mobile data based on two of three factors: Entry of a password or PIN code, personal ID based on things like fingerprints or voice recognition, and authentication of the hardware being used. The idea behind two-factor authentication is that it creates redundancies that make it more difficult for hackers to breach security.

This isn’t a huge deal for Microsoft, of course, which could easily have continued to license PhoneFactor’s software instead of taking it in-house. But the move signals its intentions to continue to bulk up its mobile security offerings, which could be a differentiator in the mobile enterprise. That’s a market Apple continues to make progress in, but as Research In Motion and BlackBerry fade into the distance it’s still a very ripe one.