Hardware restriction

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A hardware restriction (sometimes called hardware DRM)[1] is content protection enforced by electronic components. The hardware restriction scheme may complement a digital rights management system implemented in software. Some examples of hardware restriction information appliances are video game consoles, smart phones,[2] tablet computers, Macintosh computers[3] and personal computers that implement secure boot.

Instances of hardware restriction[edit]

Upgradeable processors[edit]

Some Intel processors are sold with some features "locked", that can later be unlocked after payment.[4][5]

Note that this is not unique to Intel. Some models of IBM's System 370 mainframe computer had additional hardware included, that if the customer paid the additional charge, IBM would send out a service engineer to enable it, typically by cutting a resistor in the machine.

Intel Insider[edit]

Intel Insider, a technology that provides a "protected path" for digital content,[6] can be considered a form of DRM.[7][8][9]

Verified/trusted/secure boot[edit]

Some devices implement a feature called "verified boot", "trusted boot" or "secure boot", which will only allow signed software to run on the device, usually from the device manufacturer. This is considered a restriction unless users either have the ability to disable it or have the ability to sign the software.

Android devices[edit]

Some Android devices (with the notable exception of "official line", the Nexus series) come with the bootloader locked.

Apple devices[edit]

Apple's iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV) require signatures for firmware installation, intended to verify that only the latest official firmware can be installed on those devices. Official firmware allows third-party software to be installed only from the App Store.

TiVo[edit]

Main article: Tivoization

If a device only runs software approved by the hardware vendor, and only a certain version of a free software program is allowed to run on the device, the user cannot exercise the rights he theoretically has, because he cannot install modified versions.

OLPC[edit]

Another case of trusted boot is the One Laptop per Child XO laptop which will only boot from software signed by a private cryptographic key known only to the OLPC non-profit organisation and the respective deployment authorities such as Education Ministries. Laptops distributed directly by the OLPC organisation provide a way to disable the restrictions, by requesting a "developer key" unique to that laptop, over the Internet, waiting 24 hours to receive it, installing it, and running the firmware command "disable-security". However some deployments such as Uruguay[10] deny requests for such keys. The stated goal is to deter mass theft of laptops from children or via distribution channels, by making the laptops refuse to boot, making it hard to reprogram them so they will boot and delaying the issuance of developer keys to allow time to check whether a key-requesting laptop had been stolen.

Secure boot[edit]

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Certified Windows 8 hardware will require secure boot. Soon after the feature was announced, September 2011, it caused widespread fear it would lock-out alternative operating systems.[11][12][13][14] In January 2012, Microsoft confirmed it would require hardware manufacturers to enable secure boot on Windows 8 devices, and that x86/64 devices must provide the option to turn it off while ARM-based devices must not provide the option to turn it off.[15] According to Glyn Moody, at ComputerWorld, this "approach seems to be making it hard if not impossible to install GNU/Linux on hardware systems certified for Windows 8".[15]

Solaris Verified Boot[edit]

Oracle Solaris 11.2 has a Verified Boot feature checks the signatures of the boot block and kernel modules. By default it is disabled. If enabled, it can be set to "warning" mode where only a warning message is logged on signature failures or to "enforce" mode where the module is not loaded. The Solaris elfsign(1) command inserts a signature into kernel modules. All kernel modules distributed by Oracle has a signature. Third-party kernel modules are allowed, providing the public key certificate is installed in firmware (to establish a root of trust).[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]