Intel beefs up on-chip security

Making Waves

Intel is to introduce new motherboards in the fourth quarter that incorporate Wave Systems' security software to combat theft and unauthorised copying of data.

The news came in an announcement from Wave on Thursday. The company's software enables a chip, called the Trusted Platform Module, that handles the additional security functions. The TPM, designed by the Trusted Computing Group, will encrypt and decrypt documents and is said to ensure that documents are stored in secure places of a PC.

"Wave helps fill a critical requirement for trusted computing services," said Michelle Johnston, acting director of marketing for Intel Desktop Board Operations. "We believe the EMBASSY Trust Suite software will provide good value for our customers looking for trusted computing applications. Embassy, or Embedded Application Security System, is the name of Wave's product.

The Trusted Computing Group, a consortium of companies which aim to establish standards for security, includes Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Microsoft.

Privacy advocates have criticised the TPM system saying that rather than securing data, it will be used to monitor consumers' use of music, film and software for licensing purposes.

However, Intel and Wave have rejected that their agreement relates to DRM (digital rights management), though Wave does supply products for that purpose. Wave Systems offers an optional service to identify users on-line using a patented process and a PKI-based identity application.

This is not the first time Intel's proposed security add-ons have provoked scepticism and scrutiny. In the late 1990s, it buckled under pressure from privacy advocates against incorporating a serial number in its processors. Those against the move claimed the numbers could be used for track users surfing the Internet. It is said that had the serial number been introduced it would have performed a similar function to that of the TPM chip.

© ENN