Microsoft is working with partners on a new “Pluton” chip for better PC security

Laurent Giret

Microsoft Pluton Chip

Microsoft has announced today that it has teamed up with AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm to create a new Pluton security chip. This collaborative effort aims to make future CPUs more secure by protecting consumers from diverse types of attacks, using a chip-to-cloud approach pioneered in Xbox One consoles and Azure Sphere.

This new Pluton chip will offer better protection than the existing Trusted Platform Module (TPM), a dedicated chip that supports enhanced security features such as Windows Hello and Bitlocker. TPMs have been supported on Windows for quite some time, but they have now become vulnerable to advanced techniques allowing physical attackers to steal information transiting between the CPU and TPM.

“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,” explained David Weston, Director of Enterprise and OS Security at Microsoft.

In addition to providing built-in security, Microsoft’s new Pluton chip will also be able to keep the system firmware up to date by using the cloud and Windows Update. Microsoft has been leveraging its experience with the Azure Sphere Security Service for IoT devices to streamline firmware updates through the cloud, and this new Pluton chip could prevent PC owners from having to deal with firmware updates coming from separate sources.

It’s not clear yet when we can expect to see Microsoft’s Pluton chip in new PC CPUs, but Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm are all committed to including the chips in future products. “We’re excited to make this revolutionary security design a reality with the biggest names in the silicon industry as we continuously work to enhance security for all,” Weston wrote today.