IBM acquires Fiberlink as mobile-security strategy keystone

IBM Wednesday announced an agreement to acquire Fiberlink Communications, saying the purchase is a key part of a broader mobile-security strategy to provide assurance in transactions conducted via devices such as iPhones and Android smartphones.

Fiberlink provides mobile-device management (MDM) through its MaaS360 cloud-based offering, counting about 3,500 customers in industries that include financial services, healthcare and manufacturing. IBM's director of application data and mobile security Caleb Barlow says the acquisition, expected to be concluded shortly, puts IBM on a path to compete with MDM vendors such as, Symantec, AirWatch, MobileIron and Good Technology.

But Barlow also points out that Fiberlink should be considered part of IBM's broader strategy for mobile-device security, which includes IBM's recent acquisition of Trusteer, the security firm specializing in an anti-fraud, anti-malware approach that has been used in the banking industry in particular on the Web.

[SECURITY:ForeScout technology encourages security management info sharing]

Through Fiberlink and Trusteer combined, "which is the key part of this,"  he says, IBM intends to provide a type of trust assurance in transactions done on mobile devices in business-to-business or business-to-consumer communications. With the Fiberlink acquisition, IBM is also solidifying its approach to supporting "Bring Your Own Device" environments.

Another recent IBM acquisition in the mobile management area is Worklight, which makes development tools for mobile applications, and it's also a building block in IBM's mobile security strategy overall, Barlow adds.

IBM's intention is to develop a unified mobile-security framework through cloud- and agent-based means that provides not just management of devices but security checks against malware or device hijacking, for example, especially during any sensitive transaction process.

In addition, the goal would be to enable transmission of relevant mobile-device security-event information to IBM's security information and event management tool, QRadar.

Barlow acknowledges there is "some overlap" in what Fiberlink can provide in application management and IBM's managed mobile security service started two years ago. "But it's fairly minimal," he says. IBM's main focus going forward is Apple iOS, and Android, "but we're also looking at Windows Mobile."

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail:

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