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Intel Explains Why It Bought McAfee

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Intel surprised us all a month ago by swallowing up the security giant McAfee in a huge £5 billion deal. At the time we weren't entirely sure what the intellectuall property was that Intel thought was worth so much. Now the company has fleshed things out a bit more.

The key to its decision was the move from a 'known bad' model of malware detection to a 'known good' model. The 'known bad' model is that used by most current antivirus software. It uses a large index of software signatures that it knows are bad and tries to prevent such programs executing. The problem with this model is that it relies on a profile being created for each new threat and until that profile is created the system is vulnerable.

In contrast the 'known good' model identifies trusted software and keeps it protected while denying access to all other untrusted software. The advantage of this model is that it assumes a level of threat from every new piece of software it encounters so always keeps your system protected. The way this is generally done is by virtualising the entire, or certain parts of the, operating system - something that Intel already has a great deal of expertise in.

It's thus clear that McAfee had been heavily investing in virtualisation-based security and Intel identified that it would benefit greatly from having exclusive access to this intellectual property. Quite when we'll see the fruits of this partnership is much less clear but given the ever increasing concerns over security on mobile devices and Intel's intention to move into that sector we wouldn't be surprised to see some developments by this time next year.

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