New firmware for Transmeta's Efficeon x86-compatible processor provides improved system security that's compatible with the forthcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2 from Microsoft. Known as Execution Protection, the feature is integral virus protection.
The firmware adds support for a No Execute flag associated with memory regions. This can stop many viruses and worms from hijacking the processor by writing code where it should not be. Applications like benchmark programs and just-in-time compilers often exhibit similar actions, but it's possible to enable particular applications to bypass the protection system.
The code-morphing architecture used by the processor lets Transmeta quickly develop protection support compatible with the feature, which also is found in AMD's 64-bit processors. Execution Protection applies to new processors that Transmeta ships. Also, OEMs can upgrade deployed processor chips. No other x86-compatible processor on the market has this ability.
The security enhancements in Windows XP Service Pack 2 will halt applications that try to circumvent the operating system. Linux provides similar support on other processor architectures with similar features, so it won't be long before Linux and most real-time operating systems take advantage of this new feature.
Transmeta has a distinct advantage when it comes to implementing similar security and performance related enhancements. Microsoft and other software vendors are currently working on future security enhancements. Expect to see Transmeta at the forefront.