Is there any Merit to Microsoft Conspiracy to Lockout Linux?

November 7, 2011

article by technology writer, Ed Bott, it seems that the Linux advocate claims might be nothing more than misconceptions about the real security and hardware changes going into Windows 8. The Linux scare surrounds a technology called Secure Boot. So what exactly is secure boot? It’s a technology used in the new UEFI BIOS specification that Microsoft is now recommending that manufacturers have on by default. Secure Boot itself essentially looks for signed certificates from drivers, software, hardware, and even operating systems to make sure that only valid, proven hardware/software is used on the machine. The Linux Advocates are afraid that if manufacturers include secure boot as a requirement there may be no way to shut it off. The idea is that Secure Boot might not recognize Linux Certificates as valid and therefore deny a user the ability to install non-Windows OS software such as Ubuntu and Fedora distributions of Linux. Ed Bott decided to take the question two major PC vendors, Dell and HP. Bott figured if anyone had intimate knowledge about whether a Linux lockout conspiracy is real, it would be the PC hardware vendors. According to Dell the company has plans to put SecureBoot (which already exists in many computers) into its product, which is part of this alleged lockout. SecureBoot is designed to require certified drivers, software, and hardware when it comes to Windows. Dell also mentioned, however, that the SecureBoot technology would have an enable/disable option in the BIOS allowing its customers to choose whether or not to enable the technology. HP commented that they were not aware of such conspiracy and that choose was important to its users. Although they didn’t officially say whether or not they would include an enable/disable feature, they did say they would not participate in any program that might hinder PC users from installing different operating systems on their hardware. Although major PC vendors like Dell and HP are likely to allow owners to disable the feature, it isn’t as clear whether we will see this from ALL vendors. According to BIOS maker, AMI, they are currently advising its OEM partners to allow an enable/disable option. AMI also mentions that although they recommend that OEMs allow this option, it doesn’t mean they will. You have to at least somewhat question the legality of Secure Boot. If Secure Boot really can prevent other operating systems from installing wouldn’t this kind of anti-competitive measure fall into abuse of anti-trust and monopoly laws that Microsoft has run into in the past? For this reason alone I think it’s fairly safe to assume that Microsoft’s hardware partners will keep an enable/disable feature within the BIOS. Even if Secure Boot doesn’t have an enable/disable option, I wouldn’t be surprised if companies found ways around it to allow Linux certificates to pass. Though Linux advocates would have you believe Microsoft is doing this to prevent competition, I really doubt it. The reason for Secure Boot is all about security. I have personally used and enjoyed a few different Linux distributions in the past and can personally say that Microsoft is not (nor ever will be) worried about Linux as a competitor. For now all we can do is wait and see what vendors end up doing with Secure Boot. What are your thoughts about Secure Boot? Do you think it is another way for Microsoft to control what its users are doing? Is it about security?Let me know what you think or if I missed anything.]]>

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Mike Johnson is a writer for The Redmond Cloud - the most comprehensive source of news and information about Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft Cloud. He enjoys writing about Azure Security, IOT and the Blockchain.

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