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Thursday, 26 July 2012 11:28

OpenBSD's de Raadt slams Red Hat, Canonical over 'secure' boot

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OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt has slammed Red Hat and Canonical for the way they have reacted to Microsoft's introduction of "secure" boot along with Windows 8, describing both companies as wanting to be the new Microsoft.

Responding to a query from iTWire about what OpenBSD, widely recognised as the most security-conscious UNIX, would be doing to cope with "secure" boot, De Raadt said: "We have no plans. I don't know what we'll do. We'll watch the disaster and hope that someone with enough power sees sense."

Microsoft will launch Windows 8 exactly three months from today. The company has said that a "secure" boot process will be needed to boot the operating system on any platform, which means that keys will be used at two stages to recognise what is being loaded. The process is done through the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, or UEFI.

There will be a mechanism to turn off this method of booting on x86 hardware; however, Microsoft has said that this will not be provided on the ARM platform.

De Raadt foresees issues for "secure" boot in Europe. "I expect that the Intel/Microsoft plans will face big problems in Europe," he said.

"It would be interesting to see a bunch of consumer-unfriendly laptop vendors locked out of European markets, wouldn't it?"

He did not see any positives in the move. "I sense that disaster is coming, and hope that someone has the moral strength to do the right thing," he said.

"I fully understand that Red Hat and Canonical won't be doing the right thing, they are traitors to the cause, mostly in it for the money and power. They want to be the new Microsoft."

Red Hat's method of ensuring that PCs certified for Windows 8 can boot GNU/Linux, announced by its community distribution Fedora, is to sign up to the Microsoft developer program and obtain a key which will be used to sign a "shim" bootloader.

This shim would then load the GRUB2 bootloader which will boot the operating system kernel, which will also be signed. All kernel modules will be signed too. As the first key comes from Microsoft, it will be recognised by most PCs and laptops.

Canonical's plan for its well-known Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution involves having a key which is distribution-specific in the firmware, and also a key vouched for by Microsoft.

CDs which are sold or distributed separately from hardware will need Microsoft's key to be present in the firmware to boot while bootloader images from the Canonical website will have Ubuntu's own key.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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