Intel tags Pentium III chips with optional IDs

Intel Corp.’s Pentium III processor, set for release late this month, has a
built-in serial number to ease the chores of LAN asset and configuration management. But
the serial number will arrive software-disabled in the new Pentium III servers and
workstations.


Mobile Pentium III notebook processors that come out later this year also will have
built-in processor IDs, and Intel’s security road map extends beyond that, spokesman
George Alfs said.


Intel plans to release a thermal-noise random number generator for encryption, digital
signing and security protocols, plus other products for hardware-protected booting and IP
Security Protocol services.


“We think the higher processing power will speed up encryption, but we’re not
going to put encryption algorithms in our chips, at least not in the Pentium III,”
Alfs said.


Unless the Pentium III serial number is configured to operate automatically, it will
always be off “until the user clicks a little radio button that says to enable the
serial number,” he said.


For users concerned that their chip’s serial number could be used to tag objects
and track information, Intel encourages use of third-party hashing software to scramble
the serial number.


Hashing would prevent Web sites “from keeping databases and tracking where people
go,” he said. A Web site would have to download special software to a user’s
machine to read the chip’s serial number.


“The security industry is kind of like the computer industry in 1980,” Alfs
said “It’s very Balkanized with various full stacks provided by various
people and not very interoperable.”


Intel wants to promote secure building blocks, he said. 



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