Microsoft announces new Pluton security chip processor for windows

  • Microsoft alongside our biggest silicon partners has announced a new Pluton security chip processor for windows
  • In collaboration with leading silicon partners AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., we are announcing the Microsoft Pluton security processor says Microsoft
  • This chip-to-cloud security technology, pioneered in Xbox and Azure Sphere, will bring even more security advancements to future Windows PCs and signals the beginning of a journey with ecosystem and OEM partners – Microsoft
  • Our vision for the future of Windows PCs is security at the very core, built into the CPU, where hardware and software are tightly integrated into a unified approach designed to eliminate entire vectors of attack – Microsoft

What you need to know

Pluton design redefines Windows security at the CPU

Microsoft says the heart of operating system security on most PCs lives in a chip separate from the CPU, called the Trusted Platform Module (TPM). The TPM is a hardware component which is used to help securely store keys and measurements that verify the integrity of the system. TPMs have been supported in Windows for more than 10 years and power many critical technologies such as Windows Hello and BitLocker. Given the effectiveness of the TPM at performing critical security tasks, attackers have begun to innovate ways to attack it, particularly in situations where an attacker can steal or temporarily gain physical access to a PC. These sophisticated attack techniques target the communication channel between the CPU and TPM, which is typically a bus interface. This bus interface provides the ability to share information between the main CPU and security processor, but it also provides an opportunity for attackers to steal or modify information in-transit using a physical attack.

The Pluton design removes the potential for that communication channel to be attacked by building security directly into the CPU. Windows PCs using the Pluton architecture will first emulate a TPM that works with the existing TPM specifications and APIs, which will allow customers to immediately benefit from enhanced security for Windows features that rely on TPMs like BitLocker and System Guard. Windows devices with Pluton will use the Pluton security processor to protect credentials, user identities, encryption keys, and personal data. None of this information can be removed from Pluton even if an attacker has installed malware or has complete physical possession of the PC.

This is accomplished by storing sensitive data like encryption keys securely within the Pluton processor, which is isolated from the rest of the system, helping to ensure that emerging attack techniques, like speculative execution, cannot access key material. Pluton also provides the unique Secure Hardware Cryptography Key (SHACK) technology that helps ensure keys are never exposed outside of the protected hardware, even to the Pluton firmware itself, providing an unprecedented level of security for Windows customers.

The Pluton security processor complements the 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.

Statements

“At AMD, security is our top priority and we are proud to have been at the forefront of hardware security platform design to support features that help safeguard users from the most sophisticated attacks. As a part of that vigilance, AMD and Microsoft have been closely partnering to develop and continuously improve processor-based security solutions, beginning with the Xbox One console and now in the PC. We design and build our products with security in mind and bringing Microsoft’s Pluton technology to the chip level will enhance the already strong security capabilities of our processors.” – Jason Thomas, head of product security, AMD

“Intel continues to partner with Microsoft to advance the security of Windows PC platforms. The introduction of Microsoft Pluton into future Intel CPUs will further enable integration between Intel hardware and the Windows operating system.” – Mike Nordquist, Sr. Director, Commercial Client Security, Intel

“Qualcomm Technologies is pleased to continue its work with Microsoft to help make a slew of devices and use cases more secure. We believe an on-die, hardware-based Root-of-Trust like the Microsoft Pluton is an important component in securing multiple use cases and the devices enabling them.” – Asaf Shen, senior director of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

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