The world of technology is always evolving, and the threat landscape is continuously adapting and expanding. That part isn’t new. As with many other areas of life, though, 2020 seems to have shifted the playing field and changed the rules a bit more than usual. Privacy and security are simultaneously more crucial and more challenging than ever—which is why Intel remains intently focused on these areas.
The New Normal
The world is not out of the woods yet with COVID-19, but we are at least making progress and can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. As people take part in the solution and get vaccinated to protect themselves and support the greater good, we are seeing some pandemic restrictions loosen up or be removed entirely and the start of returning to normal. It’s also important to recognize, though, that some things have changed permanently and are now inherent in our “new normal”—and that includes the way people work and connect to information. That is challenging enough by itself, but cyber criminals also recognized an opportunity with the pandemic and ramped up their attacks. The FBI reported a 300% increase in complaints to the Internet Crime Complaint Center—receiving between 3,000 and 4,000 complaints per day since the beginning of the COVID-1 9 pandemic. Clearly, we need to find new and better ways to defend ourselves.
Intel hosted a virtual “fireside chat” to talk about their focus on security and the ways that security drives innovation and is more crucial than ever today. It was a fairly intimate session. Intel sent a box of goodies to attendees so we could all enjoy some snacks and pretend like we were having an actual face-to-face conversation by a fire. The panel of experts from Intel was comprised of Michael Nordquist, business client director for Intel, Amy Santoni, senior principal engineer at Intel, Tom Garrison, VP, and general manager of client security at Intel, Ronald Perez, Intel Fellow for security architecture with the Intel Data Center Group, and Suzy Greenberg, VP of Intel Product Assurance and Security at Intel. I want to point out that Suzy was the only person who tried to maintain the ambiance of the “fireside chat” by choosing a virtual background with a fire glowing in the fireplace. You have to appreciate attention to detail.
It was a great session that covered a range of topics. The panel discussed the ongoing chip shortages and the impact of the SolarWinds hack on supply chain security, the challenges of sharing sensitive data related to the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent report from IOActive comparing the 11th-gen Core vPro mobile processors against AMD’s Ryzen 4000 Pro and 5000 Pro series mobile processors, and—a topic of particular relevance given the recent DarkSide ransomware attack against Colonial Pipeline—detecting and protecting against ransomware and crypto-jacking malware at the hardware level.
Michael Nordquist talked about the dramatic shift over the last year and a half, and how the transition to a complete work from home model changes security. He noted that people are suddenly no longer behind the company firewall, and companies have had to figure out how to ensure people have access, while also making sure servers, applications, and data are secure. When people are connecting to company resources from their personal networks at home, there is no visibility into what other devices might be on that network or what risks they potentially pose.
In a blog post highlighting the efforts Intel is investing in to help improve security and privacy, Suzy Greenberg explains, “Our approach remains steadfast: to build defenses at the foundation, protect data and workloads, and improve software resilience. These investments in security extend beyond today’s products to cutting-edge research from Intel Labs to assess and solve for next-generation security challenges. As the landscape continues to evolve, it’s important to highlight those areas where a renewed focus on security is critical.”
Redefining the Edge
The idea that the network perimeter is dead has been a mantra in cybersecurity for years. However, even with the line between inside the network and outside the network blurred beyond recognition, there was still some amount of separation between a company and the rest of the world—or at least the illusion of one. Now, that is unquestionably gone. If everyone is working from home and connecting from their own personal networks, each endpoint is now its own network edge and needs to be defended as such.
Intel invests in research and development to find ways to make security more robust and take away potential attack vectors at the hardware level. A recent report from IOActive listed Intel Control-Flow Enforcement Technology and Intel Threat Detection Technology as differentiators that raise the bar for protecting data and avoiding malware at the endpoint level.
Securing the Cloud
Along with a remote work-from-home business model, the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated digital transformation for many organizations and led to more data—much of it confidential or sensitive—to be stored in the cloud. Organizations need peace of mind regarding the integrity and confidentiality of their data, and Intel Software Guard Extension (SGX) can help. Intel SGX provides additional layers of protection so organizations can trust that their data is secure. Intel is also improving data protection in the cloud with Intel Crypto Acceleration and homomorphic encryption (HE). Intel is working with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to develop a homomorphic encryption accelerator to protect data in virtual environments.
These are just a few examples of the ways that Intel is focused on and investing in improving security and privacy for everyone. Intel is also working on initiatives focused on the security of connectivity and 5G networks, as well as projects exploring the value of artificial intelligence (AI) for finding creative and innovative solutions to the challenges we face. Greenberg summed it up well in her blog post, “Security is a system-level property and every component in the system — from software to silicon — must play its part to help secure data. We have an opportunity to bring innovative, world-changing technologies to life that are developed with security in mind.”