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Intel is offloading virus scanning to its GPUs to improve performance and battery life

Intel is offloading virus scanning to its GPUs to improve performance and battery life

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Intel Core i7-6950X
Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

Intel is planning to allow virus scanners to use its integrated graphics chipsets to scan for malicious attacks. The change could see performance and battery life improve on some systems. “With Accelerated Memory Scanning, the scanning is handled by Intel’s integrated graphics processor, enabling more scanning, while reducing the impact on performance and power consumption,” explains Rick Echevarria, Intel’s platform security division VP. “Early benchmarking on Intel test systems show CPU utilization dropped from 20 percent to as little as 2 percent.”

Intel’s Threat Detection Technology will be available on 6th, 7th, and 8th generation Intel processors, allowing a variety of machines to take advantage of moving some virus scanning activity to the GPU instead of the CPU. Virus scanners currently use the CPU to detect against memory-based attacks, but a machine takes a performance hit as a result. Intel hopes by moving this way from the CPU that performance and power consumption will improve, as typical machines do not fully utilize onboard graphics cards most of the time.

Microsoft is the first to support Intel’s new changes

Intel is partnering with Microsoft to support this initially, with the change coming to Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) this month. Intel is also working with other antivirus vendors so others can take advantage of this silicon-level change.

Intel revealed last month that it’s redesigning its processors to protect against a future Spectre-like attack, and it’s detailing some of those silicon changes today. Intel Security Essentials includes secure boot and hardware protections to protect applications from being attacked. These changes, integrated directly into the silicon, are designed to “minimize the impact of security on performance,” according to Intel.

Existing Spectre security updates have, in some cases, impacted performance, but that shouldn’t be the case for future processors. “As we bring these new products to market, ensuring that they deliver the performance improvements people expect from us is critical,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich last month. “Our goal is to offer not only the best performance, but also the best secure performance.”