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Intel adds serial numbers, random numbers to PIII

And let's hope the floating-point numbers work too, ahem...

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Intel is today due to announce that it will embed individual serial numbers first on every Pentium III it produces and later other chips, including future Celeron products. The move is geared to identify stolen PCs, either physically or via the Internet. It may also help Intel identify companies overclocking processors then selling then claiming their PCs contain faster chips than they do. It's likely each number will be exposed to software, potentially allowing, say, Web browsers to explicitly identify individual machines across the Net. Intel has said it will supply software that allows users to switch this feature off, which seems to defeat the object of adding serial numbers to chips in the first place. The Great Satan of Serial Numbers will also add random number generation hardware to each chip in an attempt to make encryption and security software tougher. This technology will appear in place of the encryption circuitry many pundits had predicted Intel would be adding to future chip designs. According to the company, it works something like this: instead of using the host OS' random number generation or its own, both of which can only create pseudo random numbers -- in other words, they appear random but detailed inspection reveals a consistent pattern to the numbers that it churns out -- software can use the PIII's totally random number array. With no hidden pattern, it's going to be much harder for hackers to break the code, claims Intel. Given it's mathematically impossible for any deterministic system (ie. a program or a silicon circuit), we're curious about just how random each PIII's array really will be, and what will stop a hacker reading the array off of his own PIII. ®

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