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 accidentally released 38TB of private data in a major leak
A large monitor displaying a security hacking breach warning.

It’s just been revealed that Microsoft researchers accidentally leaked 38TB of confidential information onto the company’s GitHub page, where potentially anyone could see it. Among the data trove was a backup of two former employees’ workstations, which contained keys, passwords, secrets, and more than 30,000 private Teams messages.

According to cloud security firm Wiz, the leak was published on Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) GitHub repository and was accidentally included in a tranche of open-source training data. That means visitors were encouraged to download it, meaning it could have fallen into the wrong hands again and again.

Read more
How to build a PC for Starfield
The Hyte Y40 PC case sitting on a coffee table.

Starfield is among the most anticipated games of the year, or perhaps even the last few years, and it's only available on PC and Xbox Series X|S. It's no wonder that it's got people turning to PC gaming in droves. Whether you're looking to upgrade or buy a new computer entirely, you'll be pleased to know that now is a good time to shop, as the prices of components are quite low.

It's a pretty demanding title, though, so not just any gaming PC will do -- you'll need a top-notch computer that ticks a few boxes. It's possible to get by with a lower-end PC due to the game's support for FidelityFX Super Resolution 2 (FSR 2), but we're focused on machines that will provide the optimal experience in the game.
The bare minimum

Read more
I’m building a new PC — here’s how I chose the components for it
The Hyte Y40 PC case sitting on a table.

Building a new PC is an exciting time for a gaming enthusiast -- even more so when it's been a long time and you've been working with outdated hardware. However, it can also be a pretty intimidating process if you're new to it, and as your gaming experience will be affected by these choices for the years to come, it can be hard to choose which parts to buy.

Having gone through this process myself, I've made all these choices very recently. Below, I'll show you what's worth thinking about when you build your own PC, and why I ultimately picked the components that I did.
Budget and use case

Read more