Virus-Busting Chips! Why Intel Paid Billions for McAfee.Sam Biddle8/19/10 3:43pmFiled to: IntelMcAfeeantivirusSILICONHardwareSecurityVirusesTrojansMalwareProcessorsCPU137EditPromoteShare to KinjaToggle Conversation toolsGo to permalinkThe news of Intel's very expensive McAfee purchase raises one obvious question: why is security software worth over $7 billion to a chip maker? Intel has been short on specifics, but it's becoming clear that virus-killing silicon is coming.AdvertisementComputer security with hardware roots isn't new for Intel, but it's stuck in last-gen tech that can't stop your system from getting smoked. Feature sets that can help filter out malicious network traffic or let CPUs screen for certain worms have been safeguarding computers you've already thrown away by now. But they're limited. Right now, most of the anti-malware grunt work is being handled by software. Letting applications do the heavy lifting is a resource-heavy affair, which makes chipmakers like Intel nervous when they look forward and see the future of computing floating in the cloud.The problem with security in the cloud is twofold. To begin with, netbooks and tablets usually just don't have the muscle to balance intensive malware efforts. Do you think your anemic netbook can root out marauding trojans, scanning hundreds of thousands of files, as well as your desktop? But what about just putting the security software in the cloud too? This leads to a second objection: do we really want our sensitive stuff floating out of our devices? Will people feel comfortable having their secrets scanned remotely? Intel doesn't think so—and says it has a solution.When we interviewed Intel's head tech honcho, CTO Justin Rattner in June, he had much to say about the intersection of cloud computing and secure computing. And the future of beating viruses, according to Intel, lies in the chips that drive our devices, not some program running in the background. "As silicon developers," Rattner explained, "we have a requirement to provide truly secure capability when it's needed." This means malware-fighting hardware is a new mandate. Rattner asserts that their hardware ambitions are to "protect those systems from the various forms of malware and then, in addition, giving them the ability to keep their secrets no matter what happens." Which sounds a little abstract, right? But put it in context: Rattner's plan sounds pretty real as of right now.