A new generation of laptops powered by AMD’s Ryzen 6000 processors will ship with Microsoft’s Pluton security processors in 2022. If you’re unfamiliar with Pluton, the technology protects sensitive data like encryption keys from the CPU package by walling it off.
As with Azure Sphere for connected devices, the new security platform builds on work that began with Xbox consoles in 2013. As of the 2022 processor generation, Pluton will be available on real devices after Microsoft announced Pluton for PCs in late 2020.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 SoC also supports Pluton and AMD’s SoC. Intel also supports Pluton. AMD and its computer manufacturing partners produce the first PCs featuring Pluton-enabled processors.
In addition to Microsoft, many companies integrate specialized security into their CPUs. In late 2020, Apple took up the trend by integrating an ARM-based security chip into the company’s M1 processor.
The Pluton project uses a security measure from the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), a chip that may have prevented some users from upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11 last year. By preventing hackers from tampering with low-level firmware, the TPM improves data security by preventing attackers from gaining access to data stored on a PC. In addition, you can also set up security features such as BitLocker disk encryption and Windows Hello biometric security.
According to Microsoft, security was strengthened by TPM, as it forced attackers to get more inventive. Initially, baddies focused their attention on one weakness in the TPM system: the communication lines between the TPM hardware chip and CPU (normally located on the motherboard).
Platoon solves this by eliminating the need for “outside” communication between the CPU and a TPM. Yet another component on the processor’s die performs a TPM-like function. Even if an attacker has physical control of the device, Microsoft says it is harder to extract sensitive information.
Using Pluton’s CPU package, Microsoft’s existing specifications and application programming interfaces (APIs) can simulate a TPM. Integrating Pluton this way is more seamless since many of the hooks Pluton needs to function already exist.
You can use the Pluton processor more than just replacing the TPM. The company says it can also be used as a security processor in scenarios without a TPM to increase the resilience of a system. In addition, manufacturers can choose to ship machines without Pluton activated. Due to the flexibility of the Windows ecosystem, the latter option shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it should be considered if you are looking for a Pluton-compatible PC.
What Exactly Does Pluton Do?
Pluton’s integration into your processor improves the security of high-value data such as encryption keys, credentials, and user information. With features such as Secure Hardware Cryptography Key (SHACK) technology, You can isolate important information from the rest of the system. SHACK ensures that secure keys are not exposed in any way outside of the protected hardware, including Pluton’s firmware — low-level software required for a component to function.
You will also update Pluton’s firmware through Windows Update like many other components on your computer. The benefits of this are that new features that leverage Pluton can be rolled out to older devices and the ability to mitigate emerging threats via regular security updates. Through its integration into Windows Update, Pluton becomes part of what Microsoft calls a “chip-to-cloud” security solution.
Where Will Pluton Appear First?
Even though Qualcomm announced it first, AMD’s new laptop processors will be the first to ship with Pluton support. In 2022, AMD says, more than 200 laptops powered by Ryzen 6000 processors will be available from major computer makers, including Asus, Dell, and HP. During CES 2022, other computer manufacturers, such as Lenovo, released laptops with Ryzen 6000 processors, such as the 16-inch Lenovo Legion 5.
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Microsoft has said Pluton would arrive for desktops. A Pluton spokesperson said the company would offer its CPUs for desktops, 2-in-1s, and other Windows-11 computer form factors in the coming months.
AMD declined to comment on plans when asked whether these desktop processors would have Pluton. AMD plans to introduce Ryzen 7000 CPUs in the second half of 2022.
A More Secure Computing Experience
Pluton by Microsoft isn’t the most exciting addition to Windows PCs, but it promises enhanced security, making it more difficult for hackers to steal data from your computer. You can’t count on it being foolproof, but it is another step toward greater security. Pluton is a welcome development, as long as it does not stand in the way of our ability to run the software we want.