Sci-tech

Microsoft brings its on-die Pluton security processor to Intel, AMD CPUs

Microsoft brings its on-die Pluton security processor to Intel, AMD CPUs”

Together with AMD, Intel and Qualcomm, the company unveiled a "shared vision for the future of Windows PCs"; with security built into the core itself.

Pluton will appear on chips from AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm. If new firmware is detected for devices, the processor will securely communicate with the cloud via Windows Update to download and install the updated software directly from Microsoft.

Microsoft Director of Enterprise and OS Security, David Weston: "We believe that processors with built-in security like Pluton are the future of computing hardware".

"The Pluton design removes the potential for that communication channel to be attacked by building security directly into the CPU", Weston says. These functions include generating cryptographic keys, protecting authentication credentials used by Windows Hello, and checking if the boot process has been maliciously modified.

Worth emphasizing is that Microsoft Pluton would only be available on the next generation of Windows computers with processors powered by the aforementioned companies. The new security chip technology was pioneered on the Xbox One console (since 2013) to prevent hacking and piracy, and more recently rolled out for Microsoft's cloud service Azure Sphere to secure low cost IoT devices.

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For the unaware, Microsoft now uses a Trusted Platform Module, or TPM, to store credentials and cryptographic keys to ensure the system remains protected.

"This revolutionary security processor design will make it significantly more hard for attackers to hide beneath the operating system; and improve our ability to guard against physical attacks, prevent the theft of credential and encryption key; and provide the ability to recover from software bugs". It is explained that Pluton is on the central processor but isolated from the rest of the system and thus helps quash emerging techniques like speculative execution.

TPMs have helped Windows PC users get a secured computing experience.

However, it's pretty clear that Microsoft is betting big on Pluton in the long term, and working together with the top chip makers out there is living proof that with an industry-wide effort, the Windows ecosystem can benefit from a major security boost.

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. Today customers receive updates to their security firmware from a variety of different sources than can be hard to manage, resulting in widespread patching issues.



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