Intel Targets Data Protection

'LaGrande' to be integrated into processors, chip sets; designed to work with Microsoft's Palladium.

With the goal of thwarting hackers, Intel Corp. last week unveiled a security initiative, code-named LaGrande Technology, that it will integrate into future processors and chip sets to stymie efforts to steal data.

Many computer users rely on data encryption to protect information transmitted over the Internet or via phone lines, but such protection offers little security against covertly embedded applications often used by hackers to gain access to data stored on a PC.

For example, a common program used by hackers monitors keystrokes, enabling third parties to read what information has been typed into the PC, such as passwords.

According to Intel executives at the Intel Developer Forum here, the companys LaGrande efforts can eliminate such potential data thefts by safeguarding information typed on keyboards, shown on monitors and stored in memory.

"LaGrande is all about creating a safer computing environment," Intel President Paul Otellini said in a keynote address here. "LaGrande delivers a hardware-based foundation for security. It has protected execution, protected memory and protected storage."

The chip maker is working not only with business partners but also with privacy experts to determine the most suitable methods for protecting data. In addition, Otellini said LaGrande is being de- signed to work in conjunction with Microsoft Corp.s security program, called Palladium, which will use both software- and hardware-based solutions.

At least one IT administrator said he wants options when using such technology. "The more secure you can make a machine, the better, but you should also have the option of being able to turn the security measures off," said Frank Soize, technical services manager for the Washington Department of Aging and Adult Services, in Seattle. "There are times where you dont want security running, especially if its used to track information or even when youre handling some kinds of information."

Richard Wirt, an Intel Fellow overseeing LaGrande, said the development of hardware-based security solutions is important to ensure the growth of e-commerce. While offering no details, Wirt said that modifications made to Intels processors and chip sets will protect data the moment it enters a PC.

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 that although those products will likely feature LaGrande enhancements, a full deployment of the hardware solution probably wont occur until 2004.