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EC approves $7.7bn deal, but with conditions

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The European Commission has approved Intel's buyout of McAfee – as long as the chip giant allows other companies access to its technology.

One of the Commission's concerns was that Intel, by embedding security on its chips, would effectively exclude competitors' products from the market.

Intel has promised to make interoperability information available to rival firms. It has also pledged to ensure that McAfee's products work just as well on other chips, such as those from AMD.

The Commission said it was worried Intel would either make it difficult for other security products to work on Intel chips or technically tie McAfee products with sales of its own chips.

Intel has promised to make all chip information available so security vendors can make their products work with the processors in exactly the same way as Intel chips work with McAfee software. The Commission will appoint a trustee to monitor the takeover.

Pat Clawson, CEO of security firm Lumension, said: “Intel’s pledge to the EU Competition Commissioner that it will provide rival security firms with access to the necessary information to allow their products to use Intel's chips is reflective of one market reservation over this acquisition. Another and probably more pressing concern is whether it is socially acceptable for Intel to impose security on the device. Whilst it might make sense in the consumer mobility space, governments and enterprises will surely want to make their own security decisions, not have it forced on them at the chip level.

“To date, Intel’s intent and vision behind the deal has been muddy at best. Justin Rattner’s indication that Intel is developing functionality that will prevent zero-day threats on the device is interesting. But the feasibility needs to be explored..."

Rattner said yesterday that Intel is working on hardware-based security to beat "zero-day attacks" – the Holy Grail of the security industry.

Most security products (anti-virus or intrusion detection) use a mixture of signature-based detection, generic detection of variants of known attacks, and behaviour-blocking. Cloud based architectures can help streamline the process of responding to attacks but Intel is talking about something more ambitious, blocking previously unknown attacks.

The Commission said it had worked closely with the US Federal Trade Commission on the investigation.

The Commission's statement on Intel's takeover of McAfee. ®

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