Claiming security as the reason, MS’s new OS W8 won’t allow “Dual Boot”. OK, no tragedy, right?
OEM systems shipping with Windows 8 will have secure boot enabled by default to only load verified operating system loaders during boot time. This prevents malware from switching the boot loader, but also other operating systems that are not signed from being loaded. According to the gHacks article I read (among others), this is only a issue for UEFI systems, if you plan to upgrade an existing system with BIOS you won’t be affected by it.
This is the foot in the door. How long will older Bios systems be around, especially when unknowing consumers get the spiel about how much more secure the UEFI systems are?
UEFI is touted as a more secure replacement for the older BIOS firmware interface, present in all IBM PC-compatible personal computers, which is vulnerable to bootkit malware.
While Windows 8 certification requires that hardware ship with UEFI boot enabled, it does not require users to be able to disable the feature (which can be done) and that it does not require that the PCs ship with any keys other than that of Windows. The main problem that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) sees is that Microsoft defines consumers as the hardware manufacturers and not the little guy at the store who actually buys the computer. MS sells OS’s, not computers. MS is giving the manufacturers the power to decide how to implement the feature. That’s where the problems will come in:
- Windows 8 certification requires that hardware ship with UEFI secure boot enabled.
- Windows 8 certification does not require that the user be able to disable UEFI secure boot, and we've already been informed by hardware vendors that some hardware will not have this option.
- Windows 8 certification does not require that the system ship with any keys other than Microsoft's.
- A system that ships with UEFI secure boot enabled and only includes Microsoft's signing keys will only securely boot Microsoft operating systems. – M. Garrett, Red Hat
This will mean that you are no longer in control of your PC and might well not be able to switch graphics cards, nor hard drives, printers, sound or network cards: All hardware that would otherwise be compatible with the PC won’t function because of missing signing keys in the OS.
That will be the purveyance of the computer manufacturer and any deal it may have made with MS (and anyone else). Proprietary hardware might see a heyday never before imagined. The opposite for software like OS’s, and perhaps browsers. No one should have the power to determine that for you:
“The UEFI secure boot protocol is part of recent UEFI specification releases. It permits one or more signing keys to be installed into a system firmware. Once enabled, secure boot prevents executables or drivers from being loaded unless they're signed by one of these keys. Another set of keys (Pkek) permits communication between an OS and the firmware. An OS with a Pkek matching that installed in the firmware may add additional keys to the whitelist. Alternatively, it may add keys to a blacklist. Binaries signed with a blacklisted key will not load.
There is no centralised signing authority for these UEFI keys. If a vendor key is installed on a machine, the only way to get code signed with that key is to get the vendor to perform the signing. A machine may have several keys installed, but if you are unable to get any of them to sign your binary then it won't be installable.” – M. Garrett, Red Hat
The biggest problem that will create (besides from a lack of competition) is that the consumer would have to do hours of research as to what hardware and software he or she could use with his or her system, which keys his/her machine has enabled for what. That’s ridiculous. How many people understand Pkek keys and couldn’t change them even if they did. It’s also way too limiting. Arguably, this is in restraint of free trade.
The Free Software Foundation wants people to urge computer manufacturers to enable the keys to allow software such as those for other OS’s and other software to be enabled. I agree, and anticipate you do as well.
What about Stardock’s software? Will you be able to install it? Will it be allowed to work on boot?
“Those who would sacrifice freedom for security soon have neither”, said Ben Franklin so long ago. How right he was. In so many ways.
By the way: Does anyone seriously think the hackers won’t find holes in the UEFI? I promise you they will. Then what will we have?
No security and no freedom.
I recommend you follow Martin Brinkmann's gHack.net website. It is a source of excellent reviews and commentaries.