Credits: Wikimedia commons

Microsoft has been trying everything possible to protect Windows-powered PCs from the threat of hacks or data theft, and the American tech giant is finally here with a new chip technology that will make life tougher for hackers. In partnership with chipmakers like AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm Technologies, Microsoft has developed ‘Microsoft Pluton security processor‘ which will be embedded right into the processors manufactured by these chipmakers to prevent physical attacks.

This new technology was introduced in the Xbox Ones released back in 2013, to prevent users from playing games that haven’t been paid for. Extending it to the Windows PCs, the Pluton chip will be embedded into the CPUs developed by AMD and Intel. Qualcomm did acknowledge the technology but has not confirmed if it will use it on its chips.

Microsoft said, ” The introduction of Microsoft’s IP technology directly into the CPU silicon helped guard against physical attacks, prevent the discovery of keys, and provide the ability to recover from software bugs.”

Windows PCs currently use Trusted Platform Module (TPM) which is a hardware component used to help securely store keys and measurements that verify the integrity of a system. The TPM lives in a PC separately from the CPU and is connected to the processor through a communication link. Hackers have been able to decode this link lately, making Windows PCs more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

By building the security architecture right into the CPU, there remains no communication channel that is prone to any cyberattack. This is what makes the new Pluton security processor more secure from the previously used TPMs. The Pluton chips will emulate a TPM that works with the existing TPM specifications and APIs. This will allow Windows PC users to continue to benefit from enhanced security for Windows features that rely on TPMs like BitLocker and System Guard.

Graphic showing the Microsoft Pluton security processor

Furthermore, Pluton will also be responsible for protecting sensitive data like credentials, user identities, encryption keys, and the personal data of a user. This is accomplished by storing these data within the Pluton processor, which is separated from the rest of the vulnerable system, ensuring that attack techniques like speculative execution cannot access the key data. The security chip also provides the Secure Hardware Cryptography Key (SHACK) technology to prevent key data from being exposed outside of the protected hardware.

Jason Thomas, head of product security at AMD said, “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.”

“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,” said Mike Nordquist, Sr. Director, Commercial Client Security, Intel.