Free operating systems might be blocked by Windows 8

By EDRi · September 21, 2011

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Das neue Windows 8 könnte freie Betriebssysteme blockieren |]

The hardware certified for the new 64 bit operating system from Microsoft
(Windows 8) will have to use the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface
(UEFI) with security measures that would not allow installing of other
operating systems, such as GNU/Linux.

The UEFI firmware specifications might require next-generation PC firmware
to only boot an image signed by a key chain rooted in keys built into the
PC. Apparently, Microsoft and other companies are pushing for this
modification to be mandatory, so that it cannot be disabled by the user.

Thus “a system that ships with only OEM and Microsoft keys will not boot a
generic copy of Linux,” as underlines the Red Hat developer Matthew Garrett
in his blog post where it explains the technical details of the new change.

Ross Anderson from EDRi-member FIPR – UK reminded that similar issues were
discussed in 2003 with the Trusted Computing initiative, which petered out
after widespread opposition from the free software community and others.
However, the current proposal is even worse, as “unauthorised” operating
systems like Linux and FreeBSD just won’t run at all.

He also pointed out that such “extension of Microsoft’s OS monopoly to
hardware would be a disaster, with increased lock-in, decreased consumer
choice and lack of space to innovate.” This measure would be illegal
according the EU competition law, such as article 102 of the EU Treaty, as
it would give the possibility for a company to leverage a dominant position
on one market (operating systems) in order to become dominant on another
market (hardware).

UEFI secure booting (20.09.2011)

Trusted Computing 2.0 (20.09.2011)

Trusted Computing 2.0

Windows 8 secure boot to block Linux (21.09.2011)

Ross Anderson Trusted Computing FAQ (08.2003)