11.29.12

UEFI Apologists Versus Germany’s Government Judgment on UEFI Insecurity

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Security at 5:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Summary: Proponents of UEFI support, who are sometimes Mono proponents as well, may struggle to reason in favour of crippleware given the way UEFI rejects Linux and the reasons the German authorities reject UEFI

T

HE Windows franchise is collapsing (ignore the Microsoft PR machine, which we’ll address in a separate post), so Microsoft created a breed of machines that won’t boot Linux. One blogger writes:

So do not buy that new shiny computer without knowing what pitfalls you may have to overcome in order to run a free operating system. As a footnote, the Secure Boot link is from an article on the Linux Foundation’s efforts written on ZDNet’s website all about how Microsoft is delaying the keys for Linux. Hmm, just one more reason to buy new equipment from alternate retailers that put Linux first or buy used.

Bottomley and the Linux Foundation cannot say much after they sold out (Novell plays a role for both) and Michael Larabel writes:

James Bottomley wrote a new blog post this morning about why the Linux Foundation really isn’t concerned about UEFI SecureBoot on ARM hardware (smart-phones, tablets, etc) compared to the work they are doing on x86 PCs with UEFI SecureBoot support for Linux.

Last month the Linux Foundation announced their UEFI SecureBoot plans for dealing with Microsoft Windows 8 PCs. Their plans basically equated to legally obtaining a Microsoft key and signing a small pre-bootloader that in turn could chain load a predesignated boot loader that would in turn boot Linux or any other operating system without having to deal with the SecureBoot mess. The signed pre-bootloader will be available from the Linux Foundation web-site for anyone to use along with the source-code, albeit not their private key. The foundation is still working to obtain a SecureBoot key and their SecureBoot focus has just been for x86 hardware.

With Linux users wondering why the Linux Foundation isn’t diving into some SecureBoot solution for ARM, James Bottomley wrote a lengthy explanation.

We also saw some feedback from vocal UEFI apologists, who are sometimes the same people who promote Mono. Yes, promoters of Microsoft’s (and Novell’s) Mono also promote or downplay the issues with Microsoft’s UEFI demands, but we won’t be linking to them. They provoke against this site. Anyway, here is the original post that seeded this debate. It says:

The answer to this comes in several parts: firstly in the PC space, Microsoft has an effective headlock on the OEM and ODMs: no desktop PC ships without a Windows compatibility sticker (the situation is different in the server market, but this is specifically about desktop PCs). Therefore in order to continue simply booting Linux on laptops and desktops, it is a huge priority to find a solution to this problem. Secondly: in the overall mobile marketplace, which encompasses tablets and smartphones, Microsoft has a very tiny presence: somewhere between 2-5%. Linux (Android) has the majority presence: by some counts, Android is >50% in this market space with Apple a close second. Therefore, a Microsoft mandate in an industry where they have no dominance is simply not really threatening (unlike the PC space where they have complete dominance).

The German authorities have already banned UEFI for their own use/machines on the face of it. So-called ‘secure’ boot is bad for national security. The “German government issues white paper on secure boot,” writes LWN:

A press release from FSF Europe (issued November 20) welcomes a white paper from the German federal government on trusted computing and secure boot. “Another demand by the FSFE is addressed by the government’s white paper. That before purchasing a device, buyers must be informed concisely about the technical measures implemented in this device, as well as the specific usage restrictions and their consequences for the owner: ‘Trusted computing security systems must be deactivated (opt-in principle)’ when devices are delivered… And ‘Deactivation must also be possible later (opt- out function) and must not have any negative impact on the functioning of hard- and software that does not use trusted computing functions.’” The white paper is in essence a non-binding call to manufacturers, but is significant as a statement from a major national government against restrictions imposed via secure boot that may foreshadow more significant government action. The white paper is available in both English and German.

The war on UEFI should carry on until this malpractice is eradicated. It is a defect, not a feature. It gives remote control over hardware.

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3 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    November 29, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Gravatar

    MS does not make the machines in question.

    Cai6zohp Reply:

    “MS does not make the machines in question.”

    … and obviously MS does not impose these restrictions to OEM either !

    Michael Reply:

    Is there any evidence they do? If there is then fine… but even then it would only be on machines that ship with Windows. MS cannot make demands about machines that ship with other OSs.

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