Microsoft is being attacked for incorporating a new security feature in their upcoming Windows 8 OS that may prevent the installation of open source operating systems on Windows branded PCs, according to an InformationWeek report.
Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is the new feature being criticised, with its enhanced flexibility being negated as it replaces the traditional BIOS. Open source advocates are worried Microsoft will use the technology to block them installing non-Windows OS’, such as the revered Linux OS.
Windows President Steven Sinofsky tended to enthusiast concerns in a blog post, explaining Microsoft’s motivation for replacing the older BIOS feature:
“In most PCs today, the pre-operating system environment is vulnerable to attacks by redirecting the boot loader handoff to possible malicious loaders. These loaders would remain undetected to operating system security measures and antimalware software,” Sinofsky blogged.
“Windows 8 addresses this vulnerability with UEFI secure boot, and using policy present in firmware along with certificates to ensure that only properly signed and authenticated components are allowed to execute.”
Sinofsky also said developers would be responsible for choosing how to manage UEFI.
“We focus our boot loader on Windows and there are a number of alternatives for people who wish to have other sets of functionality” said Sinofsky.
Contrary to Sinofsky’s claims, open source advocates warn that the move could disenfranchise people who install non-Windows operation systems on PC hardware. Matthew Garrett, who works for Linux distributor Red Hat, blogged “as things stand Windows 8 certified systems will make it either more difficult or impossible to install alternative operating systems.”
Microsoft is requesting PC manufactures shipping certified Windows 8 machines enable secure boot by default, which wouldn’t require manufacturers to include digital certificates that can be authenticated by different, non-windows operating systems. For the game who do install operating systems that are not ‘Windows 8 certified’, their PCs might not boot.
“Microsoft can require that hardware vendors include their keys. Their competition can’t,” said Garrett.
“Red Hat is unable to ensure that every OEM carries their signing key. Nor is Canonical. Nor is Nvidia, or AMD or any other PC component manufacturer. Microsoft’s influence here is greater than even Intel’s.”
The move contradicts Microsoft’s earlier Linux stance, suggesting a side-by-side relationship with Linux in a released video on Linux’s birthday.