It's About Time: Embedding Security in Hardware

Today's Intel-McAfee deal -- will it be a good for consumers? Does it presage more security on hardware (not just at the software level)?
Written by Brian Sommer, Contributor on

Guest post from West Coast colleague Katherine Jones

Can we say “it’s about time?” Can Intel successfully move computer security into hardware rather than separate performance-diminishing software add-ons that users turn off because they are so annoying? The acquisition of McAfee can point the way to embedding security components into the hardware elements rather than as software riding on top of them. As Intel’s largest acquisition ever at $7.68 billion (and its second this week), it is interesting because of the possibilities it creates – and the questions it raises about embedded security:

• Will hardware-level security lessen agility to address new viruses or malware quickly? • How will embedded security affect hardware pricing? Everyone will want it – but not to pay extra for security they think should be theirs already! • Is there a performance down-side to chip-level security measures? • Can multi-level security be embedded in a typical chip? Is this the future for phones and notebooks?

If this move can eliminate the annoying, time-consuming in-your-face updates, system-check pop-ups that accompany system slowdown, and reminders to renew or expect catastrophe – and possibly present better security than users have today, it’s a good one.

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