Microsoft Denies Locking out Linux Stories

There have been rumors that the secure boot of MS Windows 8 would replace BIOS with UEFI, thereby locking out Linux. This would even lock out the earlier linux-logoWindows versions from new computers. This rumor was disturbing for people who wanted both Windows and Linux on their systems. And since it wouldn’t allow other Windows versions, you couldn’t install other operating systems on the same computer. A real bummer indeed.

Rumors had it that Microsoft did this for security reasons. Secure boot helps avoiding unsigned code from running at boot time. There are many rootkits and malware that run at the time of startup, so this step would be good for security.

So anyway, those were the rumors that covered most of September. Microsoft has moved forward to defuse these rumors. As stated earlier, the concern mostly centered on the UEFI firmware that was used instead of BIOS. Among all the other features, there is a facility to lock the system via UEFI so that the OS needs to be signed digitally using secure boot.

Ross Anderson, the security engineering professor at Cambridge University raised doubts on the Light Blue Touch Paper Security blog, saying that getting mandatory UEFI support means unauthorized OS like FreeBSD and Linux cannot run on the system.

He also said that the extended monopoly of Microsoft’s operating system would be a blow, leading to a drastic downfall in customer choices, and increased locking in, thus giving way to lack of room for innovation. He said that this practice is clearly unethical and should be stopped.

Steven Sinofsky, chief at MS Windows, said that the secure boot of UEFI has been spanning rumors that are not true. He further explained what the UEFI can offer with the latest Windows version- Windows 8.

According to Tony Mangfeste, the ecosystem guy of Microsoft, secure boot does not lock out any OS loaders, but rather, it is a strategy that permits the firmware to validate the authenticity of various components. He added that their company does not control or mandate the settings on the computer firmware. Also, it does not enable secure boot from other operating systems except Windows.

The company posted a detailed description of Windows 8 next gen security support feature and the use of UEFI. It also reported that the users who want to run old operating systems, there is an option that lets you make the decision.

So basically, Microsoft is saying that ability to stop UEFI secure boot lies in the hands of the hardware manufacturer. If the UEFI feature is not disabled, other OS cannot run on the computer.

According to Prof. Anderson, Microsoft, along with some unspecified ‘others,’ are forcing the UEFI to come to the market as mandatory. But Microsoft denied doing that.

What’s true and what’s not? We can know that only once the Windows 8 will be launched. And we all are waiting for that day.