Intel Invests in Mocana to Support Chip-Based Security Deployment

Chip-giant Intel invests in mobile and smart device security company Mocana to expand its development work on hardware-based security.

Intel Capital, the chip giant's global investment organization is investing in mobile device security vendor Mocana, Adrian Turner, CEO of Mocana, told eWEEK.

The investment is part of a strategic partnership between the two companies to collaborate on both hardware and software security, Mocana said Sept. 1. Mocana declined to discuss the specific amount Intel invested.

Security is critical in the new smart device markets, or the "Internet of Things," Mocana officials said. The "Internet of Things" refers to the growing market for smartphones, medical devices, industrial automation systems, sensors, smart grid and meters, automotive systems, connected home appliances and consumer electronics, retail point-of-sale systems, among others, according to Turner. Connected devices represent a $900 billion hardware, software and services ecosystem. These devices are a challenge to secure because of issues unique to these devices, Mocana said.

Intel's investment is "a really great validation" for Mocana's security approach for the smartphone and other devices, Turner said. Mocana protects both the hardware and applications and services running through a combination of software on the device and cloud-based services, according to Turner.

Intel has made no secret of the fact that it is interested in baking security into the chip to block both known and unknown threats. Most customers aren't implementing the various security components already built into Intel chips, George Kurtz, executive vice president and worldwide CTO of McAfee, said at the company's Focus conference in Melbourne, Australia earlier this month.

Intel has already partnered with Symantec and Vasco to work on an identity protection technology for Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors that generate one-time passwords similar to how security keychain fobs work.

Mocana expects "over time" to be working with Intel's silicon group as well as the software groups, including McAfee, Turner said. However, he had "nothing specific to discuss" regarding the kind of work Mocana would be doing with McAfee or about the kind of products that would result from the collaboration. The partnership will be about enhancing the existing Mocana portfolio as well as developing next-generation security products, said Turner.

The industry is moving toward device-centric computing, where "everything that has a CPU and power supply is connected to the network," Turner said. The only way to secure the "world we are moving towards" is through a combination of software, services and hardware, according to Turner.

"It's absolutely necessary to have some features built into the silicon," Turner said. Otherwise, the unprotected systems on the network can expose other parts of the network to attack.

Stuxnet highlighted the importance of security in industrial control systems and Mocana is already in talks with various companies to put security features into medical and diagnostic systems, Turner said. A recent directive from the Food & Drug Administration required that all connected devices be "patchable" to get new firmware updates.

Intel understands how important in-depth defenses are for devices and will be able to "position them well," Turner said. The "right" security and information management platform would give customers the confidence to go online and conduct transactions securely and automate device-enabled business processes at an unprecedented scale, Turner said.

"Mocana's special expertise in securing devices and the information that runs across them will be crucial to the success of the Internet of Things, especially in the mobile domain," said Dave Flanagan, managing director of Intel Capital.

Based in San Francisco since its launch in 2004, Mocana is a closely held firm. More than 150 companies have licensed Mocana's Device Security technology, Turner said. Mocana's software and cloud-services are currently protecting a range of products including Android smartphones for consumers, smart-grid infrastructure devices for utilities, medical devices and unmanned aerial vehicles, the company said.

Mocana has received a strategic investment from Symantec in the past and funding from institutional investors Shasta Venture Capital and Southern Cross Venture Partners.

Organizations and consumers expect simple and secure access to information and services regardless of what device they are using, and security is critical to "preserving" that trust as managed and unmanaged devices connect to the Internet, said Charlie Rice vice president of corporate development at Symantec and a member of Mocana's board.