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FreeBSD to support secure boot by mid-year Featured

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Support for secure boot will be available in the FreeBSD 10.1 release which is due to be made later this year, according to Marshall Kirk McKusick, a senior developer of the operating system.

McKusick told iTWire that work on FreeBSD's boot process had been making steady progress. "Implementing UEFI booting is the first step, and last year the (FreeBSD) Foundation sponsored (developer) Benno Rice with a small project to implement a working prototype," he said.

Secure boot is a feature of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), the replacement for the old BIOS. Microsoft implemented it when it released Windows 8 in October 2011, using key exchanges to verify whether the operating system which was booting on given hardware was what it claimed to be.

McKusick said Ed Maste and Konstantin Belousov, two people working for the FreeBSD Foundation, had some time to make the UEFI boot code production ready and expected to have it available by March. "It should be available by default in the FreeBSD 10.1 release, scheduled for later in 2014," he added.

Intel has provided the FreeBSD Project with a test motherboard for UEFI boot development, and McKusick said this had proved instrumental in fixing bugs related to booting on real hardware (rather than in an emulator).

"We have a plan to develop full secure boot support on the FreeBSD developer wiki. Ed (Maste) hopes by mid-year to have the initial approach of using a shim loader to boot the UEFI loader.efi," McKusick said.

Several Linux distributions now support secure boot, among them being Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora.

"There is an existing shim loader, implemented by (Linux kernel developer) Matthew Garrett while at Red Hat, available under a BSD license. We will continue to develop his loader as our secure boot process evolves. We think this demonstrates the suitability of the BSD licence for wide adoption and collaboration on infrastructure components," McKusick said.

He said the remaining work was to validate signed kernels and modules. "The FreeBSD project recognises that it is critical to get these details right in order to generate signed builds and to maintain the necessary key management and storage. These topics are scheduled to be discussed in working groups at the BSDCan developer summit to be held in Ottawa Canada in May 2014."

FreeBSD is one of three UNIX-like operating systems that have grown out of the BSD that was developed at Berkeley University in California by Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems fame in the 1980s. McKusick worked alongside Joy at one stage and is one of the most respected and competent developers in the project.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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