No Hardware Antivirus Incoming - McAfee

Intel Silicon Will Not Embed Antiviral Algorithms

by Anton Shilov
04/27/2011 | 10:46 PM

When Intel Corp. acquired antivirus software company McAfee  many believed that the world's largest maker of chips will embed certain exclusive security algorithms directly into its chips, something that will boost competitive qualities of Intel's processors and reduce other software and semiconductor companies' abilities to compete. Even though McAfee does not deny that there will be unique security technologies, there will be no hardware-based antiviral programs.


"We are not embedding anything into the silicon. What we are doing is utilizing features that exist today with the technologies McAfee has to secure the stack in a way that has never been done before. [...] What people do not realize is Intel has already innovated security capabilities into the hardware. That’s already shipping. Intel has antitheft built into their technologies today," said David DeWalt, chief executive officer of McAfee, in an interview with Forbes.

Intel already does have a number of unique security capabilities built into its microprocessors. Unfortunately, since some parts of those technologies are not certified or standardized, they are not used by many vendors of security software or devices. The acquisition of McAfee will allow Intel to popularize its exclusive technologies. Other vendors of security software will simply need to adopt similar technologies in order to successfully compete with McAfee.

With better integration between software and hardware, new security models can be enabled in general.

"For 20 years security applications ran above the operating system. By being able to be at a lower layer of the stack, we are able to see some of the bigger threats that are occurring in the marketplace. Advanced persistent threats, parasitic and polymorphic root kits, things that are running inside the operating system kernels and are attacking the core operating system components are creating huge vulnerabilities and threats to today’s market. The antivirus products can only do so much, because they sit above the operating system. So, by creating a root of trust at a much lower level of the IT stack, we can protect that stack much more effectively," explained the CEO of McAfee.

In addition to driving unique security technologies into traditional devices, McAfee will allow Intel to boost security of emerging devices, including, but not limited to tablets.

"I would go on to say silicon’s only one layer that’s important to Intel. Intel also has operating systems and BIOS. Intel acquired a company called Wind River [real time operating system, RTOS], and this is a very strategic asset for McAfee. An RTOS is basically what’s running in most embedded devices. Medical devices, ATM machines, point-of-sale registers, airplanes, televisions, automobiles, this is the operating system that is running in those devices. McAfee has integrated with the operating system that Wind River has, and we’ve hardened it.  We made it more secure. We made it manageable. And now, billions of devices that are being delivered into the market through more than 2,000 OEMs that use Wind River, now can have McAfee," said Mr. DeWalt.