Intel’s Sixth-Gen Core vPro Processors Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

Intel's Sixth-Gen Core vPro Processors Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

Intel has announced the availability of the business versions of its its sixth-generation Core vPro processors, with an interesting new multi-factor authentication mechanism built into the hardware. Better known by its codename ‘Skylake’, the sixth-gen family of Core processors has been launched in phases, starting with models for consumer desktops and notebooks last year.

Intel’s vPro processor variants have specific features for improved security and manageability in corporate environments. The new lineup includes a feature called Intel Authenticate, which aims to curb the threat of data leaks which happen because of sophisticated malware or even stolen or spoofed credentials. Authenticate bypasses the operating system and software layers, and allows for up to three-factor ID verification which can involve a combination of passwords and PINs, biometric parameters, physical tokens, and location.

The idea is to combine various forms of authentication, making users validate something they know, something they have, and something they are. Passwords are an example of things users can prove they know; tokens such as a smartphone are things users can prove they have; and biometrics such as fingerprints and iris patterns prove who they are. Many services today employ two-factor authentication which relies on the former two concepts.

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Biometric match patterns and signed certificates are encrypted and stored in the CPU itself, where malware typically cannot discover it. All sixth-gen Core vPro processors will feature Intel Authenticate, but it is currently available only as a preview for IT administrators to evaluate. Businesses will be able to define how much security they need and apply it to the PCs themselves as well as corporate services such as servers and VPN access.

The new Core vPro lineup covers six SKUs for desktops and nine for mobile devices, including 4.5W Core m5 and m7 versions. Other features include Intel Unite, which improves the ease of secure workplace collaboration, and Intel Small Business Advantage, which helps businesses manage and lock down small fleets of PCs. Skylake is a new architecture which uses the the 14nm manufacturing process

Intel has named Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Toshiba as partners who are releasing devices with new sixth-gen Core vPro processors, spanning the range from traditional desktops and notebooks to all-in-ones, convertible tablets, and small-form-factor systems.

Large companies typically refresh their PCs every few years, with the average time between upgrade cycles now increased to five years. Intel says its newest processors will work 2.5X faster with 30X better integrated graphics, while enabling 3X longer battery life compared to five-year-old models. Laptops can also be far thinner and lighter than those of a similar age. Intel hopes these potential productivity increases and the cost of maintaining older machines will prompt companies to replace older PCs, in addition to the appeal of better security and manageability.

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