Windows 8 Secure Boot Fears Continue - InformationWeek

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Government // Enterprise Architecture
04:27 PM

Windows 8 Secure Boot Fears Continue

Free Software Foundation asks computer users to speak out via online petition if they're concerned security feature will lock out Linux.

A group that advocates for software user rights has launched a petition against technology in Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, saying it could turn PCs into Windows-only machines.

The technology in question, Secure Boot, is designed to prevent malware from infecting computers during startup, before Windows and all of its built-in security features are launched.

Secure Boot works by confirming that all components contain the appropriate security certificates before they are allowed to launch. To meet Microsoft's Windows Certification requirements, PCs must ship with Secure Boot Enabled.

The Free Software Foundation said that it's worried that Secure Boot could prevent users from installing alternate operating systems, such as Linux, on their computers.

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"FSF is concerned that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will implement the system in a way that will prevent users from booting anything other than Windows," the group said in a statement this week.

Its concerns prompted FSF to launch an online petition that users can sign "to show computer manufacturers, governments, and Microsoft that you care about this freedom and will work to protect it."

The petition urges computer makers to implement Secure Boot "in a way that allows free software operating systems to be installed." FSF did not immediately respond to an inquiry about how many individuals have signed the petition, which went live on Monday.

FSF's petition isn't the first time Secure Boot has drawn scrutiny from open source industry players. "As things stand, Windows 8 certified systems will make it either more difficult or impossible to install alternative operating systems," said Red Hat developer Matthew Garrett, in a recent blog post. Red Hat distributes Linux and sells related tools and services.

Microsoft officials, for their part, have said such concerns are mostly overblown, and that any issues that may arise should not be laid at its doorstep.

In a blog post of his own, Windows 8 Ecosystem team member Tony Mangefeste said Secure Boot is not actually part of Windows 8, but rather is a security component of the industry standard UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) boot-up system, which has replaced BIOS on newer PCs.

Mangefeste said it's up to individual PC makers to decide how they will configure Secure Boot to recognize non-Microsoft operating systems.

"Microsoft supports OEMs having the flexibility to decide who manages security certificates and how to allow customers to import and manage those certificates and manage secure boot."

Microsoft has not announced a release date for Windows 8, but it's expected that the company will ship the software some time in 2012. The OS will come in two versions--one optimized for traditional PCs and laptos, and one for tablets.

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