Published: Wed, October 23, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Microsoft partners with CPU makers for Secured-core PCs - Systems

Microsoft partners with CPU makers for Secured-core PCs - Systems

PC security is an arms race; for each advancement in security, there's a new way to break in.

While there are software defenses in your PC to protect against attacks like ransomware, a firmware attack dives deeper, corrupting and/or attacking the fundamental code that governs the intersection of your PC and its hardware.

With Secured-core PC, Microsoft is rethinking Windows's relationship with firmware and how it handles booting up a device. 'Our investments in Windows Defender System Guard and Secured-core PC devices are created to provide the rich ecosystem of Windows 10 devices with uniform assurances around the integrity of the launched operating system and verifiable measurements of the operating system launch to help mitigate against threats taking aim at the firmware layer, ' Weston claims.

Although Microsoft has not yet announced the complete details of these devices, you can visit Microsoft's official site to find more.

Microsoft has released Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 19008 (20H1) to Insiders in the Fast ring and brings various fixes and improvements, but no new features. Secure Boot trusts the firmware right-out, and thus can not protect a computer if the firmware is compromised.

Microsoft in its announcement noted that the National Vulnerability Database is showing an alarming rise in vulnerabilities found in the past few years, with the number of bugs continuing to grow.

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The list of existing Secure-core PCs is quite limited right now, and all of the options presented by Microsoft on its site are laptops using Intel CPUs, which have recently had their own share of security problems.

Firmware exploits are hard to detect and remove, as the firmware malware could survive any attempts to clean up the PCs with antivirus tools and even OS reinstallations.

A Secured-core PC uses hardware as a shield.

Secured-core PCs use hardware rooted security in the modern CPU to launch the system into a trusted state, preventing advanced malware from tampering with the?system and attacking at the firmware level.

The new Windows 10 devices developed to meet the Secured-core PC requirements will provide assurances around both operating system and firmware integrity, the company said. At its core, the initiative takes a multi-pronged approach to security by offering protection for not only device hardware and software, but also critical firmware. Firmware is thus rising as a high goal for attackers because the malicious code will be onerous to detect and troublesome to take away, persisting even with an OS reinstall or a tough drive alternative. Whenever one of these system operations is requested, an interrupt (SMI) is invoked at runtime which executes SMM code installed by the BIOS.

Microsoft also implements Trusted Platform Module 2.0 in PCs with a secure core, with which system administrators can check whether devices are being started up safely. Whether Redmond will eventually roll out the technology to all new PCs remains unclear.

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