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06.06.13

UEFI ‘Secure’ Boot is Not About Security, Insyde Software’s Business Model is Misguided and Dangerous

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel, Security at 9:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Corporate insecurity for Insyde Software, corporate security for Microsoft

UEFI

Summary: Promotion of bad ideas by Insyde Software merits another discussion about what UEFI actually means to ordinary GNU/Linux users

The main problem with UEFI is its effect on freedom. It’s not just about restricted boot but also patents and other issues covered in the criticism section in Wikipedia.

A new press release from Taiwan describes UEFI as a security mechanism, but this is utter fiction. Last month I spoke for over an hour with the president of the UEFI Forum, covering in length the aspect of security. He too was led to agreeing with me that security is hardly improved by UEFI, which can have its barriers bypassed and ignored. The press release says something like this:

Insyde Software, a leading provider of Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) BIOS, today announced the availability of new UEFI security features including Secure Boot and secure firmware update for leading Linux distributions.

No, thanks. Linux does not need UEFI for security. Even Torvalds rejects the 'security' claim (he dislikes ‘secure’ boot in general [1, 2]). So the above is a marketing gimmick, that’s all. Insyde Software will boost flawed claims of ‘security’, so we should all be prepared to rebut.

Dr. Garrett, an expert in this field and occasional apologist, demonstrated that UEFI with Linux can brick hardware [1, 2, 3]. So much for security, eh? He is supporting it, sadly enough, based on very weak grounds. He should have antagonised it instead. Earlier this week he posted an update on the bricking issue:

Meanwhile, Samsung got back to us and let us know that their systems didn’t require more than 5KB of nvram space to be available, which meant we could get rid of the 50% value and replace it with 5KB. The hope was that any system that booted with only 5KB of space available in nvram would trigger a garbage collection run. Unfortunately, it turned out that that wasn’t true – some systems will only trigger garbage collection if the OS actually makes an attempt to write a variable that won’t otherwise fit.

So the search for a solution goes on under the false pretences that buggy, experimental UEFI sometimes adds something for GNU/Linux users to enjoy. The practical benefits of UEFI are very minor to ordinary desktop users. UEFI is good for two monopolies: the Intel/x86 monopoly and the Windows monopoly.

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