McAfee finds purpose post-Intel acquisition

Will become the software platform that activates and manages Intel's embedded chip-level security

McAfee is making progress defining and communicating its new role and strategy following its acquisition by Intel last year for $US7.68 billion, according to the security vendor’s global chief technology officer, George Kurtz.

In Sydney for the McAfee Focus 2011 event, Kurtz said the security company had moved beyond being the third pillar — security — to Intel’s power and performance, and mobility. However, it is yet to be understood what this would mean for customers of both companies.

“The answer is no [customers don’t understand the strategy] and that’s why I fly 300,000 miles a year,” he said.

“People ask if we are going to build [anti-virus] and put it on the chip. The answer is no. The reality is that we are creating a platform to activate the security technology [Intel] already has on their chips.

“There is more security technology on [Intel’s] chips than most people know about.”

By way of illustration, Kurtz pointed to the early days of VMware’s virtualization technology, when it ran on top of the Windows operating system and the subsequent mass adoption of the technology years later when it moved below the operating system and made greater utilisation of chipset hardware support.

“If you juxtapose security, for the last 20 years we have been running as an application, but we now see security migrating down underneath or outside the operating system and then being activated with similar technologies from the [Intel] chipset,” he said.

“If we can offload a lot of the heavy lifting we do in software to the hardware and drop below the operating system, we will get much greater visibility into what is happening and will move away from a pure black-listing model to look at behaviour, and ultimately that will mean better security.”

A number of security features and technologies available in Intel’s chips which were not commonly known, Kurtz said, included the vPro platform’s use of Active Management Technology (AMT) which allows the running of security processes on a device without its operating system running.

“TXT (Trusted Execution Technology), which is already built into the chip — most people don’t use it — to create what we call ‘roots of trust’,” he said.

“Then there’s VT-x, the virtualization extension, to add additional layers of security.”

Kurtz also pointed to Intel’s Identity Protection Technology — hardware-based, two-factor authentication — and the company’s Anti-Theft Technology which allows users lost or stolen laptops to be immediately shut down when someone tries to turn them on.

“The key point is that there is a lot of technology which has not been marketed and the reality is that Intel has not had a software platform activate the features they have,” he said.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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