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Tue, Apr 13, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Latest Intel chips hard-wired to boost security, stymie hackers


The next generation of Intel Corp microprocessors for cellphones and handheld computers will, for the first time, include hard-wired security features that can enforce copy protection and help prevent hackers from wreaking havoc on wireless networks.

Intel's PXA27x processors, announced yesterday at a conference in Taiwan, contain a security "engine" that's on the same piece of silicon but separated from the area where general processing takes place. The engine also has access to secure memory.

Today, security tasks such as handling the keys that unscramble data are typically processed like any other task. As a result, it's possible that an errant program can alter, intercept or damage jobs that are supposed to be secure.

With Intel's new chips, cellphone makers and carriers can guarantee a greater, hardware-based level of security for customers who use the devices to access corporate networks or need to lock down information.

Carriers, for instance, can secure the software that boots up a phone, making it next to impossible for hackers to tweak the device and cause trouble.

"Carriers want to be able to identify the handset on the network. They want to make sure nobody is doing anything malicious with that handset," said Dave Rogers, Intel's wireless marketing manager.

The same technology also can be used to ensure that content such as music or movies is used in a way dictated by the copyright holder. A purchased song, for instance, would not play unless it's sure that it's authorized and running on secure hardware.

Intel and other supporters of trusted computing believe the extra layer of security will spur content providers to make more songs and movies available on the Internet.

But critics complain that such technologies will be used by content owners to lock down software, music, movies and any other media with draconian digital rights management schemes. As a result, people will lose control of what's on their computers, cellphones and handhelds.

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