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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Microsoft said Tuesday it is working with chipmakers AMD, Intel and Qualcomm to bring a new security processor to Windows machines. Dubbed Pluton, the security chip is based on work done for the Xbox One and designed to bring an added layer of security.

Why it matters: A number of difficult-to-patch chip flaws in recent years have left computers vulnerable to attack. It also comes as many of the biggest tech companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, are increasingly designing their own silicon to augment traditional processors.

How it works: Designed by Microsoft, the Pluton module would actually go inside the main processor made by Intel, AMD and Qualcomm and expands on an existing security approach, known as the Trusted Platform Module, that is already found in modern PCs.

  • The Trusted Platform approach relies on a small separate chip known as the TPM. Microsoft said it can achieve even greater security with Pluton by integrating the security function directly into the PC’s main processor.

Between the lines: Apple has been expanding its silicon as well, and includes a roughly similar security chip, called the T2, that has been added into recent Macs.

  • Of course, Apple has now taken things a step further, using its own processor to power the Mac, starting with the M1-based Mac mini, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro that ship this week.
  • Yes, but: Researchers found a flaw in Apple's T2, so the existence of such additional security processors is not a panacea.

What's next: Expect to see more chip work from Microsoft, as well as the other Big Tech companies, as they look for greater control over the hardware in their ecosystems.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Nov 23, 2020 - Technology

Lynn Conway, transgender and tech pioneer, gets IBM apology

Photo by Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

IBM last month offered a public apology to Lynn Conway, a pioneering computer scientist whom the company fired in 1968 when it learned of her gender transition.

The big picture: Conway broke new ground in both tech and transgender rights, and IBM's apology, first reported in Forbes, came with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

1 min ago - World

Israeli parliament opts for early elections in preliminary vote

Netanyahu (C) arrives in parliament today. Photo: Alex Kolomiensky/Pool/AFP via Getty

After six months of a dysfunctional power-sharing government, Israel is headed for its fourth elections in less than two years, most likely at the end of March.

Driving the news: The Knesset voted 61-54 today to approve the preliminary reading of a bill to dissolve the parliament and call new elections. Benny Gantz's Blue and White party supported the bill while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud and the rest of the coalition voted against.

1 hour ago - Sports

The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Packed stadiums and a more normal fan experience could return by late 2021, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said yesterday.

Why it matters: If Fauci's prediction comes true, it could save countless programs from going extinct next year.