Microsoft Pluton does not fit Dell’s hardware security strategy

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Dell, one of the top three PC makers, will not use Microsoft’s Pluton chip in “most” commercial PCs, The Register reported on Wednesday. A Dell representative told the publication that the security processor “doesn’t align with Dell’s approach to hardware security and our requirements for the most secure commercial PCs.”

Microsoft first announced the Pluton security processor in 2020. At this point, the chip was already being used in microcontrollers in the Xbox One and Azure Sphere to prevent hardware hacks.

In PCs, Pluton is designed to prevent hacks that could result from an attacker having physical access to the PC. Such physical hacks can result in malware installation or data theft. By living on the main CPU chip, Pluton can store protected data in an area isolated from the other components of the PC. According to Microsoft, this data cannot be removed under any circumstances.

Pluton can also serve as the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that Microsoft requires for a system to run Windows 11.

The main reason Dell won’t be using Pluton just yet is that Intel’s 12th Gen Core processors, including the mobile SKUs designed for Dell’s business laptops, aren’t using it. Instead, as the British The Register reported last week, Intel relies on its Platform Trust Technology, which has been used by Intel chipsets for years and uses a TPM 2.0.

In addition, Dell’s 12th Gen laptops will use modules that comply with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s FIPS 140-2 standard for cryptographic modules. The computers will also be certified by the Trusted Computing Group, according to The Register.

However, Dell is open to using Pluton one day. The company told The Register that it “will continue to evaluate Pluton to see how it compares to existing TPM implementations in the future.” Similarly, Intel ThinkPads with 12th-gen Intel CPUs won’t use Microsoft’s security chip “at launch,” according to a Lenovo representative who spoke to The Register.

The absence of Pluton in ThinkPads, a standard business laptop, would be a huge hit, but Pluton will get its chance in the new ThinkPad Z-series and some ThinkPad T-series laptops coming out in May. The laptops use AMD Ryzen 6000 mobile CPUs that integrate Pluton. The ThinkPad X13s, which uses a Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and arrives in June, will also use Pluton.

However, Pluton features like saving Windows Hello credentials are disabled by default in ThinkPads, Lenovo told The Register in January.


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