Sleep tight, we won’t let the bugs bite – the Intel VPro promise

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Intel Corp. says its soon-to-be-released virtual intrusion protection system (IPS) protects enterprise desktops by keeping bugs and viruses at bay even when the computer is powered off.

The system is a component of the company’s VPro platform that’s designed to enhance remote management of network desktops.

The security component runs in a secure partition of the PC, separate from the operating system (OS) making it tamper-proof.

“The security feature is always on, even if the PC is turned off or if the unit crashes,” said Doug Cooper, country manager, Intel of Canada, Ltd. at a product briefing on Tuesday.

Cooper said VPro will run on Intel’s dual core Conroe processors, Q965 Express chipset and the company’s Pro/1000 networking chip.

The feature will further strengthen Intel’s processor offering , the Intel Canada executive said.

VPro features Intel’s Virtual Technology (VT) and Active Management Technology (AMT), which allows administrators to remotely shut down a PC – a capability useful for dealing with virus infected units. The security software was developed with the help of antivirus company Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif.

Cooper said the IPS scans all network traffic, detects security threats and keeps them from infecting the end-user’s OS. “Embedding security on the chip means you don’t need to rely on the user to turn on the operating system to activate the security software.”

He said attackers have become bolder and more effective in their assaults against networks.

Recent research indicates the time spent by IT departments in securing a networked environment, and carrying out repairs, updates and audits prevents them from focusing on other crucial tasks.

For instance, a report from research firm Gartner Group Inc. of Stamford, Conn. that reveals IT departments spend more than 89 per cent of their time in maintenance work, and only 11 per cent on innovation.

Another study by international technology consultancy firm Zenith Infotech Ltd. in New York indicates help desk calls are eating away at PC support costs.

According to the Zenith survey, while desk-side visits represent only 13 per cent of PC support incidents, the calls account for 46 per cent of support expenditures. Remote fixes cover 87 per cent of support incidents and account for 54 per cent of expenditures.

The ability to deal with an ailing desktop unit will considerably cut down expenses according to one Canadian analyst.

“With VPro, administrators need not leave their desks to diagnose computer problems,” said Michelle Warren, analyst at Toronto-based Evans Research Group Corp.

She said the ability to reconfigure, boot up, or debug infected units remotely “results in significant time and money savings.”

Warren said traditionally, IT administrators use security software that runs within the operating system of client machines. However, this results in sluggish system performance and leads some users to disable the software.

By contrast, she said, the VPro system “offers another layer of security isolated from the user and the operating system.”

She said security applications can themselves be threatened when they operate within compromised OS. The infected desktop OS can affect the performance of security software.

In other developments, Intel also launched a program that allows notebook vendors in Canada to offer buyers laptops with interoperable components. Under the scheme, three major Taiwan-based manufacturers are producing at least seven notebook components that can be interchanged.

“This will enable our channels to support a broader product line with lower inventory costs and cut down the turnaround period for unit repairs,” said David Allen, North American distribution sales manager for Intel.

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