News Analysis: Intel is buying software security firm McAfee for $7.9 billion. It's now time to bake security into the hardware rather than layer it on.
I noticed my 17-year-old son working even more intently than usual on his
new version of World of Warcraft? No, his Microsoft Windows 7 laptop had picked
up a particularly nasty virus. He's better than I am at finding and eliminating
bad bugs, but this one was well hidden.
after a couple of hours he worked his way through a number of suspect Windows
, found the virus and deleted the bad and reset his
registry. This was a hassle to him and I told him that very few users are aware
of the Windows registry, let alone willing to fiddle around with the settings.
that is why Intel
spending $7.68 billion to buy security firm McAfee
is a good deal.
has the money and is keenly aware that it needs to move more and more of the
fundamentals of computing into the hardware. The current distinction where
Intel, or Advanced Micro Devices, or any of the other chip makers provide a
platform while the software builders do all the interesting and vital functions
is not a winning brand strategy.
is aware of this.
In announcing the McAfee acquisition, Intel's press release stated,
"With the rapid expansion of growth across a vast array of
Internet-connected devices, more and more of the elements of our lives
have moved online," said Intel CEO and President Paul Otellini.
"In the past, energy-efficient performance and connectivity have
defined computing requirements. Looking forward, security will join
those as a third pillar of what people demand from all computing
experiences," Otellini added.
OK, press release breathlessness aside, making security the third pillar of why the chip matters is a sensible approach.
Energy efficiency, connectivity and now security integrated into the
chip level will indeed make it tougher for the bad guys to do their
Security designers will have a much bigger toolkit to wall off
certain functions, allow changes to be made only after assuring
identity and generally making the digital playground a safer place to
play. This gets particularly important as more and more devices get
connected into the Web.
Intel is clearly the big guy on the block in the server and client world
, but less so in the emerging markets of smartphones, smart devices and game boxes. Those products need security also.
The acquisition also makes the vendor landscape much more interesting.
Microsoft has been trying to pull more and more security features into the operating system.
Cloud computing is still more talk than action as cloud vendors struggle to define when and where security
and privacy rules should be put in place and enforced. And all that
mobile Internet discussion tends to avoid the security issue at
Chip-level security can be very effective, but has to balance
security needs with the flexibility of incorporating new operating
system updates and application development.
Over the last couple years, the bad guys have been getting smarter
and in many cases winning the security race; putting the locks in the
chips could help reverse those wins.