Chip giant AMD to integrate data security technology from tiny UK startup

A small British security startup has scored a huge coup after penning an agreement with chip giant AMD that will see its technology integrated with on motherboards hosting the firm's next generation of microprocessors.

Founded in 2008, tiny privately-owned ExactTrak is not exactly well-known name although it attracted publicity in 2012 for Security Guardian, a secure USB stick with an integrated GSM interface allowing all data on it to be remotely destroyed should it be lost or stolen.

Although very expensive - the complexity of the device guaranteed that - this allowed customers to locate a lost stick using GPS, satellite or GSM, tracking it via a cloud portal. Importantly, data destruction could take place even if the stick hadn't been plugged into a computer.

If there was one USB stick a thief wouldn't want to steal it would probably be this one.

Three years later and the attraction for AMD is obvious: embed this at BIOS level on a motherboard inside a laptop, smartphone, tablet or even a desktop, and a business would have gained a huge amount of control over not simply the device (as with other tracking products) but the data residing on it.

The fact that the entire process could be audited could also turn out to be hugely important in an age of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) overhaul and the advantage for businesses was pretty clear.

The processors earmarked to use the technology are most likely some of the 'Project Skybridge' parts that will fuse the chip firm's x86 processor ramp with ARM processor designs including its TrustZone security platform. It is this that Secure Guardian will probably have to work with, said ExactTrak founder and CEO Norman Shaw.

"They are going through the ways of doing it in conjunction with their key OEMs. AMD wants to put an ecosystem around their processors," he said.

The deal with AMD, two years in the making according to Shaw, is a massive step up for the firm and will give AMD license-free access to the same Security Guardian technology.

The exact nature of the engineering integration has yet to be agreed but ExactTrak will make money selling its modular cloud management services to businesses using the AMD platform.

In a BYOD setup, the TrustZone architecture also allows Security Guardian to reach out an destroy only the partition used for business data, say, rather than all data including that belonging to the end user.

"In addition to the innovative technology, it was the commitment and determination of Norman and the ExactTrak team that sealed the deal for us," commented AMD's vice president of alliances, Roy Taylor.

"Data and the number of mobile devices are increasing every day which makes mobile data security a very real challenge for businesses and one that we're happy to be working with ExactTrak to tackle head on."

In an age when successful UK security startups remain few and far between, it looks as if ExactTrak could turn out to be an important exception. We will know more when AMD new processors appear, possibly as early as September of October this year.


John E Dunn

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