Intel's longstanding partnership with McAfee has now reached the stage where executives from both companies are ready to talk about how it'll provide better security for PCs and mobile devices.
At the opening of Intel's Developer Forum 2011 in San Francisco, CEO Paul Otellini unveiled DeepSafe, a combination of hardware and software that detects unknown rootkits and prevents them from wreaking havoc on machines. DeepSafe is the first fruit of Intel's $7.68 billion acquisition of McAfee last year, and it's a step in the direction of more holistic security, Otellini said in a keynote speech.
Candace Worley, McAfee's senior vice president and general manager of endpoint security, joined Otellini onstage for a brief demo of DeepSafe running in a soon-to-be-announced McAfee product that provides kernel-level rootkit detection and blocks attacks in real time.
What makes rootkits so tricky is their ability to embed themselves at the deepest levels of a PC or mobile device and function unobtrusively. Worley said rootkits often masquerade as operating system files that cloak other malware, making them impervious to traditional signature-based detection techniques.
Detecting unknown rootkits before they can gain a foothold on a system is the basis of the work Intel and McAfee have done on DeepSafe, according to Worley. "DeepSafe gives us a new vantage point on security that allows us to prevent unknown attacks," she said.
The first version of DeepSafe will take advantage of Intel Virtualization Technology (Intel VT), and Intel also plans to make the software API available to third party security vendors, Otellini said, adding that DeepSafe will be part of unnamed McAfee enterprise products that are slated for launch later this year.
Alex Thurber, McAfee's new senior vice president of worldwide channel operations, heralded the arrival of DeepSafe to his Twitter followers. "It is a new world of opportunity for our security partners," Thurber tweeted Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Intel and Google saw fit to reaffirm how great things are going in their mobile partnership. Intel has been working on silicon mobile design and is making "real progress" toward its goal of being the architecture of choice for the smartphone ecosystem, Otellini told attendees, noting that a full reference design of a Medfield-based smartphone running Android 3.2 is now available.
"This is a significant step forward in our commitment to bringing Intel smartphones to market in the first half of 2012," Otellini said at the event.
Andy Rubin, senior vice president of mobile at Google, joined Otellini onstage to announce that Intel and Google will continue working together on optimizing Android for Intel's architecture.
"All future releases of Android will be optimized at a very low level to take advantage of things like memory management, and at a high level for multimedia and 3D graphics," Rubin said.
Otellini didn't mention Meego, a Linux-based operating system that Intel developed in partnership with Nokia, in his keynote. The future of Meego has been cast into doubt after Nokia's embrace of Windows Phone 7, but in a Q&A after the event, Otellini said Meego is still important.
"It's alive and well in our embedded businesses, and it's the operating system of choice for automotive and industrial control. It’s a major asset for us in that space," Otellini said.
Intel is working with hardware vendors around the world to optimize Meego for tablets and phones, but Otellini declined to offer additional details.