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IBM to Buy Fraud Prevention Firm Trusteer

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IBM has agreed to purchase Trusteer, an Israeli company whose technology aims to prevent fraud on mobile devices and in computer applications and whose client roster includes Bank of America (BAC), ING Direct and HSBC.

The acquisition will eventually aid IBM in focusing on bank tech, malware and financial crimes, the company said. Trusteer's software can accurately identify a security threat on mobile phones and other devices and give banks an edge in preventing fraudulent transactions from occurring, IBM says.

The terms of the deal, which was announced Thursday and is set to close in the next several weeks, were not officially disclosed. However, TechCrunch reported that IBM is paying $1 billion for Trusteer.

"Our banking customers have been facing a very large and expensive problem around fraud," says Marc van Zadelhoff, IBM's vice president of security strategy. "What this comes down to is that [bank] consumers are logging in from mobile devices, from desktops, and because of malware that fraudsters and hackers are installing … they are making fraudulent transactions."

IBM expects the Trusteer acquisition to give it technology that banks can embed in their smartphone, tablet and desktop apps to gain an improved view of related transactions, he said. IBM already offers services that secured transactions on bank's servers and through an internet gateway.

Trusteer was initially founded in 2006 and backed by U.S. Venture Partners and the angel investor Shlomo Kramer. It had previously raised $10 million, according to Globes, an Israeli newspaper.

Last year, it reported that Trusteer was on track to generate as much as $80 million in revenue.

The security company, which has offices in Tel Aviv and Boston, has roughly 350 financial institution customers, the majority in North America, says Eric Blatte, Trusteer's vice president of financial services sales.

IBM has hundreds of bank customers.

The deal wouldl further consolidate an already highly concentrated security market, Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner Research, wrote in a blog post.

"This marks the second major acquisition by a major global U.S. based company of an innovative web fraud detection vendor in the past 12 months," Litan wrote. The other was RSA's acquisition of SilverTail Systems. That deal has since closed.

"This points out the innovation bed that the web fraud detection market has fostered, as these companies developed progressive products that beat the botnets and fraudsters attacking the financial services industry," Litan wrote. "This was a clear-cut use case that the companies went after, but their products could work equally well (with some tuning) in many other security and fraud markets."

Such deals have traditionally been unsettling for banks. As clients, they sign on with some vendors in part to gain access to specific research and development projects.

At least initially, however, an IBM-Trusteer marriage might be viewed as a positive by banks.

"The vast majority of our customers already have an existing relationship with IBM, and I think they are very comfortable with" them, says Trusteer's Blatte. "Since the announcement this morning, I've gotten a number of favorable emails from customers and prospects about how this makes them feel better about their relationship with us."

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