A new architecture for computer processors, unveiled by Microsoft this morning under the name “Pluton,” will take security technologies that currently exist in a separate hardware component in Windows PCs and integrate them directly into the central processing unit, promising a major advance in security.
In addition to reducing the ability for hackers to break through a computer’s security protections, Microsoft says the approach will centralize security firmware updates through Windows Update, rather than requiring users to implement patches from different vendors.
It’s modeled after the chip design that Microsoft introduced with the Xbox One in 2013, and also uses in its Azure Sphere processors for Internet of Things devices.
AMD, Intel and Qualcomm joined Microsoft in the announcement, signaling their intent to adopt the architecture in future chips. Timing for the release of the first Pluton chips wasn’t announced.
Windows has always been about security; this won’t change as we look to the future. We’re excited to be working with our partners to evolve @Windows, integrating SW & HW to build security into the core of the device #Windows #Security #PlutonProcessor https://t.co/JuPz7Slk0b
— Panos Panay (@panos_panay) November 17, 2020
“Our vision for the future of Windows PCs is security at the very core, built into the CPU, where hardware and software are tightly integrated in a unified approach designed to eliminate entire vectors of attack,” said David Weston, Microsoft’s director of enterprise and operating system security, in a post announcing the new chip architecture Tuesday morning.
He said the design “will make it significantly more difficult for attackers to hide beneath the operating system, and improve our ability to guard against physical attacks, prevent the theft of credential and encryption keys, and provide the ability to recover from software bugs.”
The announcement comes at a time when traditional PCs have returned to the spotlight, as COVID-19 restrictions have many people spending less time on their smartphones and more time on desktop and laptop machines.