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Linux Foundation's Secure Boot Pre-Bootloader Released 178

hypnosec writes "The Linux Foundation's UEFI Secure Boot pre-bootloader for independent Linux distros and software developers has finally been released. Announcing the release of the secure boot system James Bottomley noted that the signed pre-bootloader was delivered by Microsoft on February 6th. Bottomley has released two validated files: PreLoader.efi and HashTool.efi. Bottomley has also created a bootable mini-USB image that provides 'an EFI shell where the kernel should be and uses Gummiboot to boot.' Just last week the pre-bootloader had to be rewritten to accommodate booting of all versions of Linux."
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Linux Foundation's Secure Boot Pre-Bootloader Released

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  • Re:This is bollocks (Score:5, Informative)

    by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @01:59PM (#42844373)

    And I still do not understand how Microsoft get to control this.

    For anything x86 based; they don't. They expressly require OEMs (and onyone else producing motherboards with a little Windows 8 sticker on the box) to allow the end user to add their own Secure Boot keys, as well as insert Microsoft's key. No end-user modification, no certification.

    So what are various Linux distros getting bootloaders signed by Microsoft? Because they assume users are not competent enough to enter keys manually. Thus, they ask Microsoft (or take advantage of the service Microsoft offers) to sign their bootloader with Microsoft's preloaded key.

  • Re:This is bollocks (Score:3, Informative)

    by darkHanzz ( 2579493 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @02:09PM (#42844449) Journal

    And I still do not understand how Microsoft get to control this.

    They talk directly to manufacturers, since windows is still installed by default. So the swing they have on the whole laptop market just became a bit more visible, it's always been there, however.

  • Re:This is bollocks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @02:29PM (#42844595) Homepage

    It's not an issue of "competent". It's an issue of "willing".

    A major source of Linux's desktop growth is the use of live CDs. Just drop in a disk at boot, and you've got yourself a working Linux desktop to play with and perhaps even like. You can see the filesystem's different layout, you can see each application's settings saved to plain old files, and you can see the package manager's simple installation of useful software. Perhaps you can even like it and decide to install. If not, there's no changes to your computer.

    That's all changed now. Now, either you your computer must be prepared for Linux first, through some means of adding a new key. While not really beyond the average user's level of competence, it is beyond their level of ambition just to try "that Linux thing". The longstanding promise of "try it without changing anything" that has fueled trials isn't wholly true any more. Supposedly Windows' bootloader will let you boot unsigned CDs, but I've tried that three times with three failures on known-good disks, so I expect there's something screwey hidden in that route, and that doesn't really solve the problem of booting once the installation's complete.

    To make matters worse, there's no standard mechanism for adding the boot key. One option is an BIOS-based tool, which with come with the typical polish [rodsbooks.com] of a motherboard manufacturer we've had on BIOS setups for years. Expect a keyboard-based menu with unique brand-specific names. Another option that might be viable in the future is a Windows tool to add a key, which will inspire Windows to raise scary warnings about compromising security and never starting again, which will do wonders for the user's confidence.

    Microsoft surely knows that Secure Boot won't affect savvy nerds from converting to Linux. They also surely know that Linux is still growing organically, relying on word-of-mouth and firsthand try-before-you-buy experience. By requiring Secure Boot to be user-modifiable, they've thrown a roadblock in the path for Linux's growth, without looking like they're being blatantly nasty. They can keep exaggerating the threat of bootloader rootkits to justify locking everybody out, then point to the key-adding ability to dispel accusations of abusing their monopoly.

  • Re:This is bollocks (Score:4, Informative)

    by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @03:22PM (#42844977)
    Not only can you turn Secure Boot off (and add your own keys to the bootloader) for x86 devices, the end user MUST be able to do so in order to gain Windows 8 certification. No end-user configuration, no shiny windows sticker on the box (or windows pre-installation in the case of OEM systems).
  • Re:This is bollocks (Score:4, Informative)

    by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @03:56PM (#42845219)

    The margin on most PCs is razor-thin. If they were required to buy a full Windows license, the cost of the machine to manufacture would shoot up by a hundred dollars. Microsoft provides heavily-discounted OEM edition licenses to OEMs, which they simply cannot do without: No OEM licenses, no business. So when Microsoft sets standards for that 'designed for Windows 8' sticker and the license discount that comes with it, OEMs have no option but to meet those standards. This gives MS the power to dictate a sweeping change. Sometimes something major, others something trivial like mandating an extra button on the keyboard.

  • Re:This is bollocks (Score:5, Informative)

    by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @04:16PM (#42845355)
    From the horse's mouth itself [microsoft.com] (the Windows 8 certification guidelines, specifically System.Fundamentals.Firmware.UEFISecureBoot para.17):

    Mandatory. On non-ARM systems, the platform MUST implement the ability for a physically present user to select between two Secure Boot modes in firmware setup: "Custom" and "Standard". Custom Mode allows for more flexibility as specified in the following: It shall be possible for a physically present user to use the Custom Mode firmware setup option to modify the contents of the Secure Boot signature databases and the PK. This may be implemented by simply providing the option to clear all Secure Boot databases (PK, KEK, db, dbx), which puts the system into setup mode.

    Separately (Para.18):

    Mandatory. Enable/Disable Secure Boot. On non-ARM systems, it is required to implement the ability to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup. A physically present user must be allowed to disable Secure Boot via firmware setup without possession of PKpriv.

  • Re:Enough is enough (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 09, 2013 @04:26PM (#42845425)

    I agree with most of your points, however I feel Microsoft is its own biggest threat. Them fucking around with all sorts of shit in Windows is going to drive people away. I number of changes since WinXP have irritated me, but I have stuck with Windows until now.

    I recently bought a new laptop (Lenovo x230). I upgraded the storage myself - to use an mSATA SSD for the operating systems. After spending hours trying to get Win8 installed (no OS DVD provided) I gave up, it was the last straw. The UEFI stuff was a pain in the ass, but managed to get Arch Linux up and running comapartively easily.

    I have been tinkering with Linux for a number of years, but it finally took Windows 8 to drive me to Linux full time & I couldn't be happier. This is the first computer I have owned without Windows installed on any partition - it was nerve-wracking at first, but now wish I had made the move sooner.

  • Re:What about *BSD? (Score:4, Informative)

    by cupantae ( 1304123 ) <maroneill AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 09, 2013 @04:44PM (#42845539)

    the losing battle for openness

    What losing battle? Open source software hasn't been as prevalent as it is now since proprietary software first arose. Linux, in particular, is in the strongest position it's ever been in, and it looks like 2013 will be a very big year for Linux. Sure, there are always setbacks like this, but look: it's been just over 3 months since Windows 8 began to be sold, and the problem is already almost completely solved.

    But in the spirit of openness, hopefully bootloaders for NetBSD, OpenBSD, and FreeBSD will also be eventually signed.

    So you have time to whinge, but none to RTFA:

    A signed pre-bootloader will allow for chain-loading of boot-loader of any other operating system thereby enabling users to install non-signed Linux distros on Windows 8 UEFI hardware.

    Everyone should be able to install and run whatever they want on their own computers.

    Yes, but not everyone should be able to install or run whatever they want on your computer. In fairness, UEFI goes some way towards securing your PC. Microsoft did well for the consumer in that respect. They're also a fairly ruthless company, and they're not going to go out of their way to make sure you can install rival operating systems from day 1. But today, at about day 100, the problem is a long way towards being solved. Get over it.

  • Re:Enough is enough (Score:5, Informative)

    by nzac ( 1822298 ) on Saturday February 09, 2013 @06:10PM (#42846045)

    Consider for instance group policies, restart manager, volume shadow service, various troubleshooting guides, shims for both application and device compatibility

    I don't think Linux has a nice "clicky" interface to any of these things but to suggest that it does not have solid equivalents to the first 3 (the rest appear to assume Linux has the same problems as Windows).
    Group polices are probably difficult to fully replicate on Linux but its due to flaws in windows that it even needs a restart manager. Maybe SSV is more permission friendly than LVM also.
    You are just another windows user who assumes that a proper OS should function the same Windows. There are better lists than this for things Linux is missing on the desktop but the one is the lack of third party applications.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"