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Why has Intel has bought McAfee?

intel-mcafee.jpgIntel has bought McAfee.

Heaven knows why.

For what it’s worth, I am required to add my guess on Intel’s motive to the melting pot.

Intel has been adding security hardware to its x86 processors, and it has predicted that hardware will be the end of malware.

To my knowledge, most recently it has been rolling out hardware to work alongside hypervisor software.

Together, the hardware and software allow programmes to be executed entirely separately on the same CPU – allowing banking type applications to safely share a processor with a web browser, for example.

Now, virus checkers have become a necessary evil on PCs and may soon be needed on smartphones. – via the Atom, Intel is trying hard to get into portables.

These checkers use up a vast amount of processor capacity – bad enough on a PC, and potentially stultifying a finely-tuned smartphone.

It occurs to me that there might be algorithms at the heart of McAfee’s malware software that might usefully be accelerated in a hardware block.

Could it be that Intel will be adding a malware detection core alongside the crypto, video and audio co-processors that adorn today’s CPUs?

Such a co-processor could run in the background, much in the way that DRAM refresh used to, constantly searching incoming data, DRAM and non-volatile memory for identifiable malware – possibly using a malware database held in flash.

It would use up memory bus bandwidth, but unload the CPU almost completely.

That is my guess.

Of course, Intel could once again be going through one of its sporadic, and often unhappy, attempts at diversification.

Steve Bush

Tags: adding security, bus bandwidth, melting pot, smartphones, virus checkers

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