How can you secure processors against attacks like Specter and Meltdown? Microsoft wants to answer such questions with the new chip Pluton. Together with AMD, Intel and Qualcomm they are working on integrating the security chips into future CPUs.
Windows security will soon be known as Pluton
Microsoft already used chip-to-cloud security technology in the application platform Azure Sphere and in the Xbox family with the Xbox One in 2013. Now the company, together with the major chip manufacturers from AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm, wants to transfer this approach to future Windows PCs. “Our vision for the future of Windows PCs is security at its core, built into the CPU, where hardware and software are tightly integrated into a unified approach that aims to eliminate entire attack vectors,” said the company. The focus of these efforts: The Microsoft Pluton Security Processor.
Microsoft expects the “revolutionary security processor design” to provide better security for Windows PCs for a wide range of possible attacks. This also explicitly includes better protection against physical attacks and the theft of credentials and security keys – all currently very popular approaches for cybercriminals.
Pluton instead of TPM
As Microsoft explains, most PCs currently use a chip called the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that is separate from the CPU for security issues, which is used as a storage location for keys and is supposed to ensure the integrity of the system can be verified. This is exactly where more and more attackers come in and have developed access techniques that, according to Microsoft, are very effective, especially with physical access. The attack is always aimed at the connection between the CPU and TPM.
“The Pluton design prevents this communication channel from being attacked by building security directly into the CPU,” said Microsoft. The Pluton architecture provides that Windows PCs first emulate a TPM that works with the existing TPM specifications and APIs. By isolating it from the rest of the system, Pluton should then reliably protect login data, user identities, keys, and personal data even in the event of malware infections or loss of the device. Microsoft does not yet give an exact schedule.
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