Microsoft disses Thunderbolt as too insecure for Surface devices

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A Thunderbolt 3 cable is also a USB4 cable.
Microsoft says Thunderbolt is secure. Virtually every other computer maker apparently disagrees.
Photo: Caldigit

Microsoft claims it won’t adopt the Thunderbolt standard for its Surface laptops and tablets because it’s inherently insecure, according to an internal company video leaked onto Twitter recently.

Thunderbolt was developed by Intel and Apple, and it’s widely used on Macs. It’s also been adopted by virtually every PC maker. But not Microsoft.

Microsoft: Thunderbolt is “a direct memory access port”

A video that’s apparently a webinar on Surface devices leaked on Twitter by WalkingCat. It’s hosted by a legit Microsoft employee, according to The Verge.

The Microsoft employee calls a Thunderbolt port “a direct memory access port.” And he says it can be used to “access the full device in memory and access all data that’s stored in memory.” That’s why Microsoft won’t use it. “So we don’t believe, at this moment, that Thunderbolt can deliver the security that is really needed from the devices,” says this unnamed company employee in the leaked video.

It’s clear Apple doesn’t consider this a credible threat, as it built Thunderbolt 3 into every MacBook Pro built since 2016, every MacBook Air since 2018, the 2019 Mac Pro and multiple other models.

And it’s not just Apple. Other companies making computers with a Thunderbolt 3 port include Lenovo, Dell, Toshiba, Samsung, HP, Acer, Asus… the list goes on. Plus, there’s the USB Promoter Group that’s turning Thunderbolt 3 into USB4.

Microsoft typically drags its feet about adopting industry standards. The seventh-generation Surface Pro from late 2019 is the first in this line of tablets with USB-C, for example.

No removable RAM for Surface either

The leaked video also covers why Microsoft won’t put upgradable RAM into the Surface line. The company employee points out that if the RAM chip isn’t soldered to the computer, it can be removed and placed into a chip reader.

“That’s why on all Surface devices the memory is not physically upgradeable, because of security,” says the presenter in the video.