Intel’s new tools offer balance between security and performance
Intel powered PCs will fall back on GPUs for anti-virus scanning, while hardware level security is the new focus
Intel has released a new tool for PC users, called Accelerated Memory Scanning (AMS). It works by offloading resource intensive security tasks such as anti-virus scanning from the CPU (central processing unit) to integrated GPU (graphics processing unit). Most PCs and notebooks come with GPUs. The slim and less powerful ones use Intel GPUs, also known as Integrated GPU, while the more powerful high-end systems meant for gaming, designing and video editing depend on discreet GPUs made by Nvidia or AMD. According to Intel, Accelerated Memory Scanning will work with Integrated GPUs.
AMS will be available on Intel’s 6th, 7th, and 8th generation processors, which means most of the PCs and notebooks launched in the last two to three years will work. This new tool will work with all major anti-virus or security solutions including Microsoft Defender, which comes pre-loaded on all Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft will integrate it into Defender by the end of this month.
Intel claims shifting the load from the CPU to GPU will speed up the scanning process, reduce power consumption and will improve the performance of the CPU. Intel’s benchmark results show CPU utilization dropped from 20% to 2%.
The only downside of shifting the scanning to GPU is that it can affect the performance of those apps which rely on GPU on a regular basis. Most of the web browsers rely on GPU acceleration.
Intel has also announced a hardware level security suite called Security Essentials. It is basically a framework which will standardise built-in security features across all Intel CPUs including Core, Atom and Xeon chipsets.
Detection of chip-level vulnerabilities such as Spectre and Meltdown and the ensuing backlash against chipset companies in January, has put emphasis on the need to offer security at the hardware level too, instead of relying entirely on software security tools. However, due to the involvement of multiple vendors in the PC ecosystem, building a cohesive security system at the hardware level is difficult. Intel’s Security Essentials will provide an integrated suite of baseline hardware security. It will include encryption and secure storage for sensitive data and keys, protected and verified boot process, and provide isolated enclaves to protect sensitive data. Its adoption is expected sometime in 2018.
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