Intel to optimise hardware

Intel to optimise hardware

Intel and RSA Data Security have signed a cross-licensing agreement to optimise their products to work with each other's technology, the companies announced last week at the RSA Data Security Conference.

But Intel spokesman Seth Walker would not say exactly what hardware - processor, chipset or network interface card - the company would enhance the security features of.

However, an analyst briefed on Intel's plans for its Pentium III processor said among the new instructions the chip will include are a few that "will be useful for people who are doing the kinds of coding and decoding necessary for encryption. That's a fairly important thing in terms of providing differentiation between Pentium II and Pentium III," said Nathan Brookwood of the Insight 64 consultancy in Saratoga, California.

"That could make a difference to certain classes of enterprise users" who may need a nudge to be convinced of the need to upgrade their processor, he said.

The hardware boost speeds up the encryption software, and if the processor doesn't have encryption instruction sets Intel would need to add a hardware accelerator to optimise the encryption software, according to Brookwood.

Intel is also extending its RSA licence to include Elliptic Curve Cryptography technology, said Scott Schnell, executive vice president of marketing at RSA, during a keynote at the show. However, Intel's Walker said he was prohibited from confirming which encryption technologies Intel licenses from RSA.

For its part, RSA will in mid-1999 enhance its BSAFE Crypto-C and Crypto-J software developer toolkits that are optimised for Intel's planned security hardware features, Schnell said. This will enable developers to recompile their code so it has transparent access to the security enhancements in Intel hardware, he said.

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