Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Microsoft’s ‘Pluton’ could bring Xbox protections to PC CPUs

Microsoft is teaming up with Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm to work on a new security chip that will be integrated directly into the CPU die on Windows PCs. Code-named “Pluton,” the chip aims to help make upcoming laptops and desktops more secure, and prevent attacks or security exploits like Spectre and Meltdown, which plagued the PC industry in 2018.

According to Microsoft, this new “Pluton” chip is based on a chip-to-cloud technology, which is already seen in Xbox game consoles and Microsoft’s Azure Sphere. Essentially, that means the chip is able to eliminate the bus interface between a laptop or desktop’s CPU and the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), where Windows stores security keys and other things to verify the integrity of the system.

As seen with Spectre and Meltdown, attackers leverage that bridge to gain physical access to a PC and steal the information in TPM using certain methods. However, Pluton will be built directly into the CPU and will work by replacing and emulating a TPM. In turn, the information can’t be removed from the Pluton chip, even with malware or with physical access to the PC, according to Microsoft. It’s the same way that physical attack protection won’t let you run pirated games on an Xbox One or Series X/S. It makes your PC more secure.

“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,” said David Weston, director of Enterprise and OS Security at Microsoft.

The chip also goes beyond physical security. Part of the problem with the 2018 Spectre and Meltdown attacks was that processors needed to be patched via firmware and microcode updates. It’s not always an easy process that requires going through different resources to securely update. Pluton will bring “a flexible, updatable platform for running firmware.” This means that firmware updates for a PC will be managed through Windows Update, as maintained by Microsoft.

There’s also the worry of digital rights management (DRM). With the security in the chip, updates are being controlled by Microsoft’s infrastructure. But, as reported by The Verge, Pluton is more about security than DRM. “This is really about mainstream security and protecting identity and encryption keys,” Microsoft told the publication.

No word yet on when the first PCs with the Pluton chip will ship. But Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm have partnered with Microsoft and committed to continuing to develop the technology.

Editors' Recommendations

Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
Microsoft is bringing ChatGPT to your browser, and you can test it out right now
Microsoft's redesigned Bing search engine.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed in a private briefing with the press that a ChatGPT-powered version of the Edge browser and Bing search engine is available now. The overhauled search and web browsing experience is designed for natural-language questions, replacing critical aspects of the browser with AI tools.

That might sound familiar. Google and other search engines have been leveraging AI for several years to compile search results, but Microsoft's take is different. It's "your AI copilot for the web," offering up new search, answer, chat, and create functions.

Read more
If you think PCs are dying, you haven’t been paying attention
A laptop sits on a desk with a Windows 11 wallpaper.

It's been a grim week for the world of computers. If you aren't up-to-date on financial statements (and I can't blame you for that), let me catch you up to speed. Microsoft started the week by posting a 39% decline in its Windows revenue, followed shortly by Intel recording a 36% drop for its Client Computing Group (consumer products). AMD and Apple are announcing their earnings next week, with dire predictions as the demand for PCs comes to a standstill.

PCs are dying, or that's how the story usually goes for these types of drops. In 2015, a 5% drop was enough for Wired to declare, "no, really, the PC is dying." And in 2009, when PC sales dropped by 8%, John Herrman at Gizmodo wrote: "I just can't go on pretending there's a future for [desktop PCs]." Those single-digit drops were enough to ruffle feathers, so between a 35% and 40% decline? That looks like certain death.

Read more
AMD vs. Nvidia vs. Intel: which PC giant won CES 2023?
AMD CEO Lisa Su delivering AMD's CES 2023 keynote.

AMD, Nvidia, and Intel are the three rivals that power up countless desktops and laptops, and the components they produce make CES exciting every year. This year, each manufacturer had some major announcements to share, including new processors and graphics cards, both for desktops and laptops.

Here's a recap of everything AMD, Nvidia, and Intel showed off during the last few days. Fair warning: there's a lot to sink your teeth into. Now, the question is, who did it best at this year's CES?
AMD: mobile galore and 3D V-Cache

Read more