OLS: Linux and trusted computing
Posted Jul 28, 2005 10:57 UTC (Thu) by anonymous21
Parent article: OLS: Linux and trusted computing
Virtually every single argument in support of Trusted Computing falls apart on the exact same grounds. You can still get all of the same benefits from an essentially identical system where you DO know your master key that controls the security on your computer. If you have a printed copy of your key, perhaps kept in a safety deposit box if you like, all of the security functions on your computer still work for you. You can still seal your data and you can still control what software may and may not run on your computer and any unauthorized system alterations will still be detected and locked out.
Trusted Computing is not merely a tool that can be used for good or bad. Trusted Computing is like a nutricious apple containing a poison pill. The Trust chip is designed to keep secrets against its owner, designed to be secure against the owner. Advertising the vitamins a poisoned apple contains does not justify the poison pill. All of the talk of vitamins just means that you want to buy an apple without the poison pill.
The TPM is specifically designed to forbid the owner to know his own key and be secure against its owner. The arguments supposedly supporting Trusted Computing are simply invalid when they list all of these examples that do not justify nor require forbidding the owner to know his own key. If people want to argue those benefits and argue for new hardware, fine, then they should argue for new hardware with these exact same capabilities where the owner has the additional benefit of being allowed to know his own keys, not an anti-owner system designed to be secure against the owner. The fact that you know your own key does not prevent your computer from protecting you. Knowing your key allows you full control over your computer and the ability to unlock your files if and when you need to do so. Knowing your key allows you to avoid being locked out or locked in to anything.
An additional issue is that Trusted Computing defeats the GPL. Under Trusted Computing source code often becomes entirely useless. If you attempt to modify Trusted Computing GPL software then the Trust chip will detect this modification and the chip will forbid you to read any 'secured' files. The Trust chip will also attest that the software is 'currupt', interoperability and internet connection attempts can and will fail. The modified software may technically run, but it simply will not work. Trusted Computing defeats the GPL and can make the source code useless because it forbids the owner to know his own key to unlock his own computer and unlock his own data.
Not only does Trusted Computing defeat the GPL, but it will also begin to strangle Linux development if there is a move to Trusted Linux. Under such a Trust system much software will only run on a certified and unmodified Trusted Linux, varius files will only be readable on a certified and unmodified Trusted Linux, various websites and other network protocals will not work if you do not have a certified and unmodified Trusted Linux. I becomes almost impossible for most people to develop and test and contibute improvements and fixes for Linux if any attempt to modify and recompile causes most of your system to break. Trusted Linux is an evolutionary dead end, with most contributors locked out.
Another major issue is Trusted Network Connect (TNC), a new specification documented on the Trusted Computing Group's website. Micorsoft has issued a press release that they are implementing this system under the name Network Access Protection (NAP). This is a system that first checks if your computer has a Trust chip then checks the exact operating system you have and then checks exactly what software you are running. If you are not running an authorized and unmodified operating system then you are quarantined. Note that "quarantined" is the exact word used in the documentation, it means you can be denied any network connection at all. If you are not running certain mandatory software, specifically authorized and unmodified modified software, then you can again be quarantined and denied any internet connection at all.
The proper response to Trusted Computing is "I want to know my own key. No key, no sale".
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