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

Intel plans to allow virus scanners to use their integrated graphics chipset to detect malicious attacks. The change could improve performance and battery life in some systems. "With accelerated memory scanning, scanning is handled by Intel's integrated graphics processor, which allows more scanning and reduces the impact on performance and power consumption," explains Rick Echevarria, VP of security division of Intel platforms. "The first benchmarking in Intel test systems shows that CPU utilization fell from 20 percent to only 2 percent."

Intel's threat detection technology will be available on the 6th, 7th and 8th generation Intel processors, allowing a variety of machines the advantage of moving some virus scanning activity to the GPU instead of the CPU. Virus scanners currently use the CPU to detect memory-based attacks, but one machine suffers a performance hit as a result. Intel expects performance and power consumption to improve when moving from the CPU, since typical machines do not use graphics cards on board most of the time.

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

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

Existing Specter security updates have, in some cases, affected performance, but that should not be the case for future processors. "As we bring these new products to market, making sure they deliver the performance improvements that people expect from us is critical," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said last month. "Our goal is to offer not only the best performance, but also the best safe performance."