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Intel’s McAfee buy: Too few answers to too many questions, for now!

August 27, 2010

Yes I know I am a little late with this due to various reasons, but better late than never! On August 19th, Intel literally shocked the IT and information security world with its acquisition of McAfee for a whopping $7.68 billion approximately! Startled, a lot of folks started asking around as to why Intel did such a thing! Is Intel even doing the right thing in the first place?

The world boasts of several magnificent gadgets and devices — mobile phones and smartphones, Internet connected TVs, Wi-Fi enabled eReaders, the iPads, portable navigation devices with wireless interfaces, and so on and so forth! Now, how many of these devices actually boast of great security? Aren’t most of those unprotected?

With so many devices, besides smartphones, getting connected to the Internet every day, and with little or no on-board or ‘in-house’ security in place, this move is perhaps a masterstroke on Intel’s part!

But then, not all of such devices would run on Intel’s chips either! So? How will Intel control the hardware security market and create a monopoly — as some have been pointing out? Or, is there a much larger, hidden picture, which will get revealed over time?

Or, has this been done with the intention to rule the mobile security market, or well, security within the chip, or even device security or hardware security? Also, will this signal the end of malware?

And what about McAfee itself? Will this signal an end to all of its wonderful product development now that it will be part of Intel? What about its customers? Will some of its top executives march out? Intel says that McAfee will continue to run as is, and one hopes that it is maintained.

Personally, I was keen to know what Symantec thought of this acquisition. The company stated: The announcement by Intel to acquire McAfee emphasizes the growing relevance and need for security protection that extends beyond the PC and acknowledges Symantec’s ongoing strategy.

However, Symantec believes it is important to focus security on identities and the information people need to access, independent of the device they may be using. That will require security to work seamlessly across multiple platforms as users switch devices to use, store and transmit information anytime and anywhere. Symantec offers a broad portfolio of security and management solutions that protects customers from the largest enterprises to SMBs to consumers.

Divided house, and too many questions!
The house seems to be divided! Yes, the onus is clearly on security! The acquisition probably sits very well with Intel’s mobile security strategy. That’s what made Intel go for McAfee in the first place!

However, to be truly effective, security needs to work across various levels – platform, network, device, business, etc. A chip with security software inside may not really be the answer to enterprise, mobile, network and device security issues so soon! But who knows!!

As Andy Kellett, senior analyst, Security, Ovum, says, “potentially this is just the tip of an iceberg as unprotected, Internet-enabled devices are already flooding onto the business and home-user markets.”

Well, there too many questions that time needs to and will surely answer!

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