Intel is getting ready to launch its next-gen smartphone chips. The upcoming 64-bit “Merrifield” processors will be the company’s most powerful smartphone chips to date, while offering longer battery life. But there may be something else that makes Merrifield chips special: Phones with the new processors may be designed to disable key features if you replace the operating system.
Intel’s Frank Kuypers explained the new security feature to Golem.de at CeBIT recently, saying that if you install CyanogenMod or another custom ROM, for example, you may lose access to LTE wireless networks or the ability to access your corporate email server.
Before you panic that Intel is trying to kill custom ROMs, this is being pitched as a security feature that allows businesses to prevent employees from installing untrusted software (or which could prevent someone from stealing a phone and continuing to access the corporate network).
But if the hardware-security feature Intel calls “hooks” are widely used, it could make it tougher for users to install custom ROMs such as CyanogenMod, AOKP, or Paranoid Android on phones with Intel’s next-gen mobile chips.
When used properly, hooks can actually be useful… letting software such as a virus scanner run in the background using code that’s tied directly to the processor and which isn’t even noticed by the operating system itself.