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The FTC has decided to permit Intel's acquisition of McAfee.  (Source: Flickr)
Company is now cleared to start its "hardware security" bid

Many were baffled by Intel's August announcement that it was acquiring McAfee, the leading maker of antivirus software, for $7.68B USD.  While Intel touted the promise of "hardware security" options, many felt that the deal was like trying to cross a cactus with an apple tree -- they just didn't go together.

But for better or worse the deal has been officially approved by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the government agency tasked with monitoring the market and making sure mergers and acquisitions don't represent a threat to competition.

While the deal has earned the FTC's blessing, Intel is reportedly having a much harder time convincing the European Commission -- the antitrust arm of the European Union -- to approve it.  The EC -- which recently fined Intel $1.45B USD for antitrust violations -- is reportedly concerned that the deal would prevent McAfee's security rivals from fairly competing with it.

They say that if Intel packages security on-chip, it would be effectively guaranteeing that most computers offered a built in advantage to McAfee.  That would hurt companies like Symantec in seeking to sell customers rival antivirus suites.

The fear is perhaps justified, given Intel's tactics in the past.  Intel has been caught modifying its compilers and other software to sabotage the performance of rival hardware makers' products, such as AMD CPUs or NVIDIA GPUs.

Even if the Intel/McAfee union gets the green light, significant challenges remain.  While Intel has some experience embedding a typically software-driven technology on its CPUs, with its vPro virtualization platform, embedding anti-malware functionality may be tougher task.  

On the one hand, putting security scanning algorithms on-chip could greatly enhance their speed and remove the burden they typically put on the CPU cores.  However, getting updated malware signatures to the core, with which to detect suspicious files would be no easy task.  In the first half of 2010, alone McAfee logged 10 million new malware variants.

Another possibility is that Intel might monitor specific instruction sequences to the CPU for signs of misbehavior.  Again, this would be very tricky to pull off, though.

In the short term, whether the deal is approved or not McAfee will likely function primarily independent of Intel.  Intel has already promised to run McAfee as an independent company, initially headed by Chief Executive Officer Dave DeWalt.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini promises big things from that collaboration, stating, "Only the combination of hardware and software … can yield this kind of innovation, and that's the reason for buying McAfee."

But how or when those nebulous promises of "hardware security" are actualized is even more uncertain than the acquisition's pending approval with European regulators.

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RE: McAfee
By StevoLincolnite on 12/22/2010 10:40:54 AM , Rating: 2
Odd, my install of Nod 32 is sitting at 51mb of ram, might be because my rig hasn't been rebooted in a week.
Still, I love how little nod32 disk thrashes at random!

RE: McAfee
By Flunk on 12/22/2010 10:43:47 AM , Rating: 2
That's good, my Microsoft Security Essentials is currently using 66MB right now after being up for 4 days.

RE: McAfee
By Maximalist on 12/22/2010 12:10:30 PM , Rating: 2
Tried the new Microsoft Security Essentials 2 yet?

RE: McAfee
By fic2 on 12/22/2010 12:30:22 PM , Rating: 2
I didn't know that SE v2 was out. Is it worth downloading/installing vs v1?

RE: McAfee
By Maximalist on 12/22/2010 1:34:58 PM , Rating: 2
DT would not cover a new major release of security software from Microsoft (both Security Essentials 2.0 and Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010). Not sensational enough.

RE: McAfee
By Cheesew1z69 on 12/22/2010 1:45:12 PM , Rating: 2
He conveniently forgot to mention it's a BETA....

RE: McAfee
By Maximalist on 12/22/2010 1:49:10 PM , Rating: 2
False. It has been RTM and available for download since Friday, December 17, 2010.

RE: McAfee
By Ammohunt on 12/22/2010 2:57:49 PM , Rating: 2
Correct its not listed on the main site its a seperate download link i have it installed on all my machines already from what i have read it has some very nice new features. Norton or any of the big names will never grace any of my machines again. I just need anti-virus not firewall/pc-tuneup/security bloatware.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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