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The UEFI SecureBoot Saga For Linux Continues

Hardware

Published on 31 May 2012 06:10 PM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware
70 Comments

The UEFI SecureBoot saga for Linux continues with another update by Matthew Garrett of Red Hat.

Matthew's latest blog post on the subject is entitled Implementing UEFI Secure Boot in Fedora.

What seems to be getting the most traction from his latest post is how Red Hat is looking at paying Microsoft/Verisign for the SecureBoot signing keys. It's a bit silly, and the cost is only $99 USD, but still this is causing a huge uproar. Some of the other (usual) points from Garrett's blog post:

- "What about grub? We've already switched Fedora 18 over to using grub 2 by default on EFI systems, but it still needs some work before it's ready for secure boot. The first thing is that we'll be disabling the module loading. Right now you can load arbitrary code into grub 2 at runtime, and that defeats the point of secure boot. So that'll be disabled. Next we'll be adding support for verifying that the kernel it's about to boot is signed with a trusted key. And finally we'll be sanitising the kernel command line to avoid certain bits of functionality that would permit an attacker to cause even a signed kernel to launch arbitrary code. These restrictions will all vanish if secure boot is disabled."

- "So, we'll be moving to requiring signed kernel modules and locking down certain aspects of kernel functionality. The most obvious example is that it won't be possible to access PCI regions directly from userspace, which means all graphics cards will need kernel drivers. Userspace modesetting will be a thing of the past." (This will also cause problems for the proprietary Linux graphics drivers.)

- "An alternative was producing some sort of overall Linux key. It turns out that this is also difficult, since it would mean finding an entity who was willing to take responsibility for managing signing or key distribution. That means having the ability to keep the root key absolutely secure and perform adequate validation of people asking for signing. That's expensive. Like millions of dollars expensive. It would also take a lot of time to set up, and that's not really time we had. And, finally, nobody was jumping at the opportunity to volunteer. So no generic Linux key. The last option wasn't hugely attractive, but is probably the least worst. Microsoft will be offering signing services through their sysdev portal. It's not entirely free (there's a one-off $99 fee to gain access edit: The $99 goes to Verisign, not Microsoft), but it's cheaper than any realistic alternative would have been. It ensures compatibility with as wide a range of hardware as possible and it avoids Fedora having any special privileges over other Linux distributions. If there are better options then we haven't found them. So, in all probability, this is the approach we'll take. Our first stage bootloader will be signed with a Microsoft key."

- "It may be a little more awkward for desktops because you may have to handle the Microsoft-signed UEFI drivers on your graphics and network cards, but this is also solvable. I'm looking at ways to implement a tool to allow you to automatically whitelist the installed drivers. Barring firmware backdoors, it's possible to configure secure boot such that your computer will only run software you trust. Freedom means being allowed to run the software you want to run, but it also means being able to choose the software you don't want to run."

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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