Launching its own initiative to thwart hackers, Intel Corp. on Monday unveiled a new security initiative, code-named LaGrande Technology, that it will integrate into future processors and chip sets to stymie efforts to steal data.
While many computer users rely on data encryption to protect information transmitted over the Internet or via phone lines, such forms of protection offer little, if any, security against covertly embedded applications often used by hackers to gain access to data stored on a PC.
For example, a common type of program used by hackers monitors keyboard strokes, enabling third parties to read what information has been typed into the PC, such as passwords. Other programs can secretly take virtual snapshots of data on computer screens, or even stored in memory.
According to Intel executives, Intels LaGrande efforts would eliminate such potential data thefts by safeguarding information typed into keyboards, shown on monitors and stored in memory.
"LaGrande is all about creating a safer computing environment," said Intel President Paul Otellini on Monday, in his keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum announcing the initiative. "LaGrande delivers a hardware-based foundation for security. It has protected execution, protected memory and protected storage."
Otellini said the chip maker is working not only with its regular business partners, but also with privacy experts to determine the best and most suitable methods for protecting data. In addition, he said LaGrande is being designed to work in conjunction with Microsoft Corp.s own security program, called Palladium. Microsofts initiative, announced earlier this year, will use both software and hardware based solutions to safeguard data.
Richard Wirt, an Intel fellow overseeing the LaGrande initiative, said the development of hardware-based solutions to protect data was critically important to assure future growth of e-commerce.
"While e-commerce transmissions can be easily encrypted for safe transmission over a wire … most hacker attacks actually occur inside the PC platform," Wirt said in a recorded video presentation show at IDF on Monday.
While offering no details, Wirt said that modifications made to Intels processors and chip sets would protect data the moment it enters a PC.
"LaGrande Technology creates a protective vault or secret private data entry point where information can be operated upon and stored," Wirt said. "Secondly, it creates safe data pathways in the platform."
Intel said it will brief developers, under non-disclosure agreements, about its planned security enhancements to assure future applications will be able to take advantage and more importantly, work with, the new chip and chip set features.
LaGrande is not expected to begin appearing in Intel processors and chip sets until mid-2003, coinciding with the launch of the companys newest PC desktop chip, code-named Prescott, and a new chip set, code-named Springdale. Intel insiders said although those products will likely feature some LaGrande enhancements, a full deployment of the hardware solution probably wont occur until 2004.
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