Mobile and network security company AuthenTec Inc announced this morning that it has been acquired by Apple for $8 a share, which equates to $356 million (in cash).

News of the deal comes from a 8-K filed by AuthenTec, which says that it has entered an Intellectual Property and Technology Agreement with Apple yesterday, allowing the Cupertino company to acquire non-exclusive licenses to Authentec’s hardware and software technologies, as well as its patent portfolio.

AuthenTec prides itself on offering secure networking, content and data protection, also offering fingerprint security on PC and mobile devices.

It details what it does on its Fact Sheet:

AuthenTec’s award-winning smart fingerprint sensors provide multiple touch-powered features that extend beyond user authentication to include convenience, personalization and touch control. The Company’s TouchChip area fingerprint sensors and modules comply with government and industry standards and offer the ruggedness, strong security and ease of integration needed for quick and broad deployment. TouchChip sensors dramatically lower the size, cost and power of fingerprint sensors versus optical-based fingerprint solutions.

Apple paid $20 million for the rights to the above technologies and will allow the company to license the patents on a non-exclusive basis for up to $115 million. AuthenTec said it has more registered patents than any of its rivals in the space, with 200 filed and issued U.S. patents.

AuthenTec counts Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Fujitsu, HBO, HP, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Orange, Samsung, Sky, and Texas Instruments amongst its customers, so Apple might be positioning itself not only to secure the company’s products, but could end up licensing them back to its rivals.

Apple will also pay AuthenTec $7.5 million for “non-recurring engineering services,” with any new research conducted by company immediately belonging to Apple.

This will undoubtedly increase speculation that Apple is to include similar technology in its next-generation devices, but the company has yet to comment on the acquisition.

What’s interesting to note is that the company signed an agreement with Samsung just last week, using its “QuickSec VPN security for use in its new Android smartphone and tablet models.”

Reading Authentec’s SEC filing, we can assume that the technologies will still be licensed, but all roads will now flow back to Apple.

[Image Credit: Hakan Dahlstrom]