Windows 8 Might Block Linux From Loading

secureboot-windows8logoBack in October 2011, the Free Software Foundation speculated on the possibility that Microsoft might be trying to block out other operating systems from loading within a computer, using a new concept known as the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Microsoft showed it off a couple of months back, booting up Windows 8 in eight seconds. Linux users: Should you be concerned?

secureboot-linuxvswin1

It seems like a good time for Linux users to speak out against this if they use both operating systems on the same computer. While there’s no problem with UEFI itself, the “secure boot” feature in the architecture might make it impossible for Windows 8 computers to let another operating system piggyback on them. “Secure boot” was a feature implemented to prevent the computer from using a malicious boot loader that would corrupt key components. Unfortunately, the method of OS loading isn’t compatible with that of Linux, and we still don’t have word about whether Apple plans to make a new OS that goes around this or at least uses the the technology.

As part of the certification requirements, all PCs that want to run Windows 8 will soon have to conform to the UEFI architecture and make it possible to boot Windows 8 through secure boot. The standardization involved worries me, because Linux will be pushed out of the picture unless one distribution comes out that also conforms to the new demands of Microsoft. That shouldn’t be difficult, but there probably could have been other ways to implement UEFI without requiring modifications to the operating system attempting to run on the computer. How much boot loader malware is there, anyway? I thought some motherboard manufacturers protect against that already.

The Free Software Foundation found that this new requirement for Windows 8 certification might hinder free operating systems from being installed on newer computers. The foundation currently holds a petition, which you can sign here. The petition demands Microsoft to make UEFI’s “Secure Boot” feature in a way that will allow free software and operating systems to run on computers. It also says that computer manufacturers should include an option to disable this feature, so that free software like Linux will run on any computer.

secureboot-disablesecureboot

Surely enough, Microsoft was watching the dilemma and responded to the issue, saying that there’s already an option within their hardware prototypes to disable secure boot attempts from the motherboard. We’re still not sure, though, whether you’ll be able to run Windows 8 with secure boot disabled. Microsoft has admitted indirectly, however, that the option could turn up missing on certain platforms that weren’t released by the company. In other words, any OEM can choose to omit the option to disable secure boot, making this the first step towards a world without a free OS.

Many people don’t realize this, but there are already solutions to boot loader attacks implemented by some OEMs. All of these solutions do not interrupt the hooking process involved in making the operating system load. Authentication can be achieved through chips on the motherboard, just like secure boot does, without making the operating system change its primary boot code. While I’m not the biggest expert in operating system development, I’m still aware that there are other ways of achieving the same thing. Why do you think Microsoft chose secure boot, which would force OEMs to implement a uniform standard architecture? Leave your opinion in a comment below!

Photo Credit: BIOS Configuration Screen – Microsoft

34 comments

  1. Linux is not going to get blocked. Microsoft doesn’t care about Linux because Linux is not a threat to Microsoft Windows. About 1% of the PC users out there want to have to type a bunch of commands in order to do what should be simple tasks. That 1 % are going to stay with Linux no matter what. And Microsoft knows that, and they don’t really care. Because they already have most of the other 99%. I fix computers for average people and I can tell you they don’t understand the question when I ask them “what operating system are you using” I don’t understand all that technical jargon, what does operating system mean? It’s a Dell I don’t know anything about the parts that are installed in it And what do I do there is some thing popped up that says “Install Wizard ” and I’m scared I don’t know what to do? Yes it has a button that says “Next” so what should I do?
       These are otherwise mostly educated intelligent people, but they turn into complete idiots with a computer.[ The whole PEBKAC thing]  Microsoft knows this and knows they are not about to be opening a terminal and typing get apt install Bla bla bla. So Microsoft doesn’t care about the 1% who love using an operating system that the rest of the world would hate if they got stuck trying to figure out what to do with it. This Secure Boot is all about stopping the cracked pirated Windows operating systems. They use boot loader cracks to trick the operating system into thinking it’s activated. They usually trick Windows into thinking that the computer has a slic 2.1 bios, with an OEM version of Windows. This secure boot is being added to stop that. And it may just work. So unless I get a Windows tablet I will probably be sticking with Windows 7. If Linux was good enough to steal away a substantial amount of Windows customers I might believe they are are trying to block it, but Please. Plus they probably know better than to try something like that because they would get in trouble from the Justice Department and the EU. Even if they stole all the Linux users it probably wouldn’t make them enough money to pay all those fines.

    • Your essay was for nothing, because it was revolving around the assumption that I was implying that Microsoft is TRYING to block Linux. In the article, I tried as much as possible to show people with more neurons that Microsoft is inadvertently blocking Linux.

      • So they’re going to inadvertently block Linux because they don’t care if The Justice Dept and the EU give them the largest fines for anti competitive business in the history of the world? And why are you talking about my neurons, what’s wrong did I hit a nerve? You might want to check and make sure your own neurons are all firing properly after writing such a hair brained fud inducing theory

        • Please read documentation on UEFI before commenting further. Thank you. My commentary was on your implication that I was assuming that Microsoft was trying to block Linux. Furthermore, Microsoft does not break any laws by establishing the UEFI standard, even if it would block other OS’s from running. Making an OS run on UEFI is not an overly complex thing. In the end, all standards, such as USB and Thunderbolt, were established by companies, but their documentation had to be published.

          If you do not publish your documentation, you break the law, but establishing a standard which other operating systems would adapt does not, by any means, imply that Microsoft is going to break a law by creating  a PUBLICIZED hardware policy that will block any previous version of Linux from running. Hardware manufacturers have the option of including a feature to disable Secure Boot, allowing Linux OS to run on them. The problem will come if you are using dual boot.

          Unfortunately, there are also other kinds of people who interpret texts however they want: Bible literalists.

      • your article didn’t give a clear evidence to prove that microsoft tried to block Linux. if Microsoft can dump windows phone 6.5 in to a trash to bring the windows phone 7 to a complete new world. I don’t believe Microsoft Windows 8 has any responsibility to be compatible with older Linux OS at all.

        • I’m supposing that seeing the code for UEFI, the schematics, and everything else, is not evidence. Anyway, I wasn’t trying to prove the Microsoft was TRYING to block Linux. Check out the wording on the article. It’s just that UEFI will make things a bit more difficult, that’s all.

      • That’s funny, I tried it on an old netbook and I had very low expectations for the device. I just wanted to get on the internet with it. Guess what, I had to open a terminal. I also went on Linux websites so I could figure out how to do some stuff. There was a lot of open terminal talk going on. It’s fine It’s a very powerful operating system. If I were building a super computer it would be Linux. But it is not simple enough for the general computer using population. At a company with full time IT staff that could come to the rescue every time somebody couldn’t do something, which would be very often it might be feasible. But home users would be lost. I agree Linux has gotten a lot easier since the 90’s  But do you really want it to be made as simple in every way as Windows? Because that’s what it would require for it to take the place of Windows. Most of you Linux fan boys complain that Windows needs to go away, and Linux needs to become the new defacto  operating system. So when the Linux developers finally dumb down Linux to the point where it’s simple enough for that to happen don’t start complaining that they ruined Linux. And now we have to use the old versions because the new stuff is too much like Windows.

        • There are so many distributions of Linux, that it’s likely you’ll see a terminal window on at least one of them. I had to use PuTTy to connect to a Linux server before and that stuff gets you dizzy and nauseous.

          Ubuntu, though, is like the Windows of Linux. Lots of people use it conveniently. Approximately 5.5% of the people visiting my website use Linux, and my website mainly focuses on Windows.

          Honestly, I don’t think Windows should go away. In fact, I depend on it to host my websites, and I depend on its Office applications to write for tech magazines. The main reason I don’t switch, though, is because I’m already comfortable with it and I game a lot on the OS.

      • Yeah, no doubt. I have some computer illiterate friends who have used linux (mostly Mint it seems). Fact is, most users of a distro like that will never see the terminal. They’ll never have to.

    • I agree with you more than all those  BS linuxlovers. they don’t live in a real world and don’t realize the most of us just want things done in a proper way instead of figure those commands as a computer jerk. They always forget importance of another key factor in the world: compatible.

  2. I agree with the guy above BUT I don’t think that linux is that complicated, some distros (like Sabayon and Ubuntu) are quite simple and sometimes I think that the might even be simpler than win (after a while of course some problem needs some command typing, but then again so as in windows….)

    • I tried CentOS and Ubuntu. On both, I never had to see a terminal. Dependencies were a headache to install, though.

  3. Basically it should be better that someday people have to make decision: Linux or Windows. I made it 3½ years ago. I don’t need Windows anymore, so this ain’t issue for me at all.

    • Microsoft appeals to customer demand. Truly, the amount of unsatisfied customers will be overwhelmed by the horde of customers that won’t even think twice about these issues.

  4. Can anyone explain to me if this will effect people like me who build their own PCs and buy the full version of Windows (which I need for work) and set up dual boot.  Currently I am on a near new PC running XP and Ubuntu and intend to move up to Windows 8 when it comes out. Would secure boot prevent installing Linux on this existing PC?

    • I believe that you might need to ensure that all the hardware is Windows 8 certified. I’ll research more on this matter.

  5. Run Windows on top of Linux with VirtualBox – problem solved.  I won’t boot my real windows partition unless I need a specific peice of hardware that Linux doesn’t recognize… hopefully these devices will be in the garbage can soon.

  6. Doesn’t it theoretically make more sense to try to get information necessary to implement UEFI secure boot in linux instead of crying about disabling it? If this technology does have the ability to prevent malicious bootloaders from being used why not petition to leverage it instead of trying to hinder progress towards more secure computing? The article itself questions if Apple will be using this technology in the future. How could Apple assess and implement this technology in a fashion that is impossible for the linux community?

    • Surely enough, Linux will also implement this standard. It’s out of the question for Linux to avoid that. The thing is that you won’t be able to use older versions of Linux distributions. Still, you can also argue that older versions of Windows can’t be used under UEFI either, putting Microsoft under a loss as well.

      • I never catched those strange ideas from those idiots (excuse me), when you are going to use a new and more advance linux OS, why do you bother to have old technologies in your computer? If the computer can support newer Linux Y, why do you need to bother with older Liunx X? Isn’t this logically failure to think in a correct way?

    • Will, the keyword there is “theoretically”. In a perfect world yes. But this is Microsoft, a company with a long history of using technical specs and standards to subvert competition. There is a lot of reason to be worried.

      Once Microsoft has this leverage over OEMs whats to prevent them from making small changes “extensions” to UEFI that constantly ensure that Linux always has just a little more trouble, needs a little more work, and runs a little bit worse on UEFI hardware?

      This may sound cynical, but this is the way Microsoft has historically competed.

      emk 

      • Microsoft doesn’t have the right to implement UEFI without publishing the specifications in an official venue accessible to everyone. My fear, though, is that technology will stop being an altruistic industry. Altruism is what helped make progress, not standards that impede the normal function of older operating systems. It’s very possible to make other types of methods that can do the same thing as “Secure Boot” does without having to change the operating system’s boot loader architecture. Anyone who knows how to make an operating system knows this clearly.

  7. As a forward thinking, positive attitude type of person I think this can be for the best for Linux.  As painful and as scary as this sounds, it is time for Linux become independent.  There are already a number of hardware dealers specializing in “white boxes” and custom built machines. “If” UEFI does stop Linux users from overwriting Win8 and/or dual booting; it is time to start supporting those who are already supporting us. Linux is no threat to Microsoft and I do not think this should be taken personally; but we Linux users / supporters will have to adapt; now we are put to task.  Again, I think at the end of the day Linux will be better, stronger and most important independent.

    • Linux will most likely adapt UEFI. The thing is that older versions will not work under this standard, and it might take a while for the operating system’s distributions to all make that adaptation, hindering the use of Linux on newer OEMs for a while. It depends, because there will be OEMs that implement an option to disable UEFI features. I’m thinking that computing technology will go through some growing pains until all the turbulence subsides. I’m surprised that Microsoft even considers bootloader attacks such a threat. There are so many alternatives to preventing bootloader-based malware.

  8. I love my linux machine. microsoft have been doing some greeat stuff with their 2010 products cant lie, Exchange server 2010 was a wow, server 2008 R2 is just off the chain, they sure are trying to take away linux, how ? windows powershell is just a copy perl, bash and all the linux syntax out there, trust me they took the linux ideas and transformed them into something that you can never imagine of.(read about and compare linux piping and powershell 2.0 piping). quite honestly i will never give up on centos it is the best out there, and i love the terminal. WHAT I REALLY WANT IS, THAT WHY NOT ALL THE LINUX DISTRO MAKERS GET TOGETHER ? WHAT IS THE POINT OF MAKING A MILLION FREE MEDIA PLAYERS ? WHY NOT JUST TAKE VLC AND IMPROVE IT ? WHY NOT USE CENT OS AND IMPROVE IT ? I BET YOU ALL A MILLION DOLLARS IF ALL THESE UBUNTU FEDORA CENTOS MINT DEBIAN REDHAT GETS HAND IN HAND MICROSOFT WILL SHIT ITS PANTS   

    • simple and straight forward===money. People don’t work free to get what you need. as a lesson to a child, there isn’t free lunch waiting for you.

  9. Here’s the thing no one’s addressed. Windows 8 is obviously being sold to consumers to put on their old computers. They are even recommending it be put on computers that previously were too slow for Windows 7 or Vista. There’s no way they are expecting BIOS updates to every single one of these. So there will have to be a way to boot Windows 8 without this modification.

    Now, there’s still the problem of new hardware maybe not being able to run current Linux, but, seeing as Linux’s bootloaders are independent of the OS, I don’t see that as a problem. GRUB will just have to be updated, and everything else will work fine. While you can make an argument for running an older Linux, there’s not really one for running an older bootloader.

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