Microsoft Announces Pluton, the Security Chip Making Windows PCs Unhackable

Ruben Fields
November 18, 2020

Although it was revealed yesterday, Microsoft Pluton is not entirely new. However, attackers have found innovative ways to attack it in order to gain all the information from the CPU.

A new architecture for computer processors, unveiled by Microsoft this morning under the name "Pluton", will take security technologies that now exist in a separate hardware component in Windows PCs and integrate them directly into the central processing unit, promising a major advance in security.

To further enhance security, the Pluton security platform will verify the integrity of firmware to prevent malware from making malicious modifications.

The Pluton security processor complements work Microsoft has done with the community, including Project Cerberus, by providing a secure identity for the CPU that can be attested by Cerberus, thus enhancing the security of the overall platform. It will also be available for building custom PCs, and Linux support is expected to come in the future. Pluton was first introduced back in 2013 in the Xbox console that prevented players from running pirated copies of games on their consoles.

Existing TPMs are separate units from CPUs, and attackers have developed methods to steal data and information that flows between a TPM and CPU when they have physical access to a device.

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The post didn't go into detail about the chip's hardware, but Microsoft did disclose that some of the technology behind Pluton is already used in its Azure Sphere cloud service. But, as reported by The Verge, Pluton is more about security than DRM. But the chip also solves a major security headache by keeping the device's firmware up-to-date. The firm is growing the brand new processor in partnership with AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm, which implies when it really turns into out there, it ought to be current on virtually each Windows PC, together with ARM primarily based techniques working Qualcomm's processors such because the 8cx or the SQ1/ SQ2 chipsets within the Surface Pro X.

The Pluton processor is claimed to have the ability to isolate sensitive data such as encryption keys from the rest of the system.

"The role of the Windows PC and trust in technology are more important than ever as our devices keep us connected and productive across work and life", Microsoft said in a statement to Khaleej Times. The company says it aims to be the first x86 chipmaker to release a Pluton-equipped CPU - though it just announced its new Zen 3 CPUs at the start of October. Microsoft is taking lessons learned by it and its OEM partners on other platforms to protect PCs with Pluton. This means that firmware and BIOS updates, which many people skip or simply don't know exist, can be integrated into the normal Windows Update process, thus ensuring that more PCs stay completely up-to-date with all the latest security patches.

Microsoft Pluton, on the other hand, is an industry-wide effort, and it's essentially Microsoft's response to similar efforts from Apple and Google.

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