Canonical, Red Hat, Linux Foundation step in to prevent Secure Boot lockin

The open source software community has today taken on Microsoft’s grip over hardware manufacturers with two whitepapers by separate organisations about the Secure Boot functionality Microsoft are demanding OEMs are providing with Windows 8 PCs.

Secure Boot is part of the UEFI specification, which is intended to replace the ageing BIOS system. BIOS is used in most modern computers for hardware configuration and setup before the operating system is loaded, and UEFI is meant to update this. Secure Boot is a feature which only allows operating systems with correctly signed licenses to be booted on the machine – intending to reduce attacks whereby malicious code is loaded in an operating system that boots from external media, for example.

Back at the Build conference, Microsoft announced OEMs would be required to deploy Secure Boot on all Windows 8-installed machines. While this is all well and good for security, open source operating system organisations such as Red Hat, Ubuntu, and the Linux Foundation are concerned that this will essentially eradicate users’ ability to install or try other operating systems that they provide. They say that the Microsoft proposed implementation of Secure Boot does not give an easy way for users to add authorised operating systems to the UEFI system, which would essentially lock out any other OS’s that tried to boot.

Today both Canonical and Red Hat, and the Linux Foundation released whitepapers referencing Secure Boot implementations that include user interfaces to easily allow more permitted operating systems to be installed – whether this will impact OEMs in their implementations remains to be seen.

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