Intel's 12th-gen vPro chips now actively fight ransomware, supply-chain attacks

Intel vPro logo largeImage: Intel

Intel launched its 12th-gen mobile and desktop Core processors for businesses today—Alder Lake processors with included vPro technology. And, in the way it continues to segment its processor lineup, Intel has added two new categories of its vPro technologies: vPro Essentials for small businesses, and vPro Enterprise for Chrome devices.

Intel expects its customers to ship 150 commercial designs or more using the new vPro chips, from Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Panasonic.

Intel’s new Alder Lake vPro chip follows the 11th-gen Tiger Lake mobile vPro chips Intel announced a year ago, which introduced Intel’s premium brand to the vPro product lineup. In Tiger Lake, Intel added what is called Intel Control Flow Enforcement Technology (CET) and Intel Threat Detection (TDT) to Hardware Shield, which protects against attacks to the PC’s firmware. In Alder Lake, Intel has added additional protections to Hardware Shield, defending against ransomware, cryptomining and supply-chain attacks. Those also include extending CET to desktop processors, Intel said.


Specifically, the new technology involves anomalous-behavior detection, according to Stephanie Hallford, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Client Computing Group’s business client platforms, which scans for both “good” and “bad” app behavior. The technology is designed to block “living off the land” attacks, a file-less malware attack that simply injects bad code into existing, legitimate software, which then executes attacks against the system.

The new 12th-gen Alder Lake chips also include what Intel calls Total Memory Encryption Multi-Key (TME-MK) and Intel Virtualization Technology with Redirect Protection (VT-rp), which provides hardware support for new virtualization capabilities that Microsoft plans to add in a future OS release, Intel said.

Intel didn’t provide a comprehensive list of the differences between vPro Enterprise and VPro Essentials, but a white paper identified both VT-rp as well as Intel Active Management remote maintenance and control as two features that vPro Essentials doesn’t support. Intel Key Locker, “used in select Chrome devices to help protect keys used by AES-NI encryption,” is also specific to the vPro Enterprise for Chrome technologies.


Intel 12th-gen vPro platforms will include ECC versions of DDR5 and LPDDR5 memory, support for Wi-Fi 6E, wired 2.5Gbps Ethernet, and Thunderbolt 4, Intel said.

Naturally, Intel touted the performance improvements that the new chips offered both on mobile as well as desktop, claiming that its mobile Core i7-1280P processor is 27 percent faster on the CrossMark benchmark than its 11th-gen Core chip and 41 percent faster than the Ryzen 7 Pro 5850U.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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