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 user 2005-04-27 at 10:32:00 am Views: 55
  • #9142
    reveals hardware security plans

    April 2005:Can trusted computing hardware deliver security
    without locking out competition ?

    The next version of Windows,
    codenamed “Longhorn,” will have security features to take advantage of the
    trusted computing hardware now showing up in the marketplace, Microsoft
    executives announced on Monday.

    THE Software giant plans to deliver encryption features and
    integrity checks to insure that computers, such as notebooks, that are
    disconnected from a network are not affected by malicious programs. Called
    Secure Startup, the feature will appear in Microsoft’s forthcoming version of
    its operating system, known as Longhorn, and represents a much smaller subset of
    the security features that the software giant had originally intended to build
    into the system software.

    “We remain fully committed to the
    vision of creating new security technology for the Microsoft Windows platform
    that uses a unique hardware and software design to give users new kinds of
    security and privacy protections in an interconnected world,” Selena Wilson,
    director of product marketing for Microsoft’s Security Business and Technology
    Unit, said in statement. “The changes we are making can be characterized as an
    evolution of that original vision.”

    Secure Startup will combine
    full-volume encryption, integrity checks and the hardware-based Trusted Platform
    Module (TPM) to detect malicious changes to the computer and protect the user’s
    data if the laptop is stolen, the software giant stated at its annual Windows
    Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC). The Trusted Platform Module is a
    standards-based hardware design created by the Trusted Computing Group, of which
    Microsoft is a member. (SecurityFocus’s parent company, Symantec, is a
    contributing member of the group.)

    While the technologies, once known
    as Palladium and now called the next-generation secure computing base (NGSCB),
    will help companies and consumers lock down their computers and networks,
    concerns remain that the hardware security measures could also be used to
    lock-in consumers to a single platform and restrict fair uses of

    With homegrown integrity and
    security features being added by a variety of devices by companies aiming to
    lock out competition using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the
    specter of another hardware-based security feature worries some
    information-system experts.

    Innovation could suffer if reverse
    engineers are locked out from tinkering with devices, said Dan Lockton, a
    graduate student at the University of Cambridge whose thesis focuses on the
    effects of technologies created for controlling information.

    The fear is that “we’re moving to a
    stage where the customer no longer has control over the product he or she has
    bought or the products (created) using that device,” Lockton said.

    Printer maker Lexmark attempted to
    block generic ink cartridge makers from reverse engineering its simple hardware
    security scheme for validating legitimate cartridges. A federal appeals court
    overturned in October an initial win for Lexmark and allowed chip-maker Static
    Control to continue making the chips that made generic ink cartridges compatible
    with Lexmark printers.

    “It is definitely clear that some of
    the content owners themselves are trying to use the technology to erode some of
    the fair use allowances that have historically been granted by the courts,” said
    William Arbaugh, assistant professor of computer science for the University of
    Maryland at College Park. “We have to be vigilant in order to stop that

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation,
    an Information Age civil rights group, has also criticized the technology as
    potentially undermining fair use rights.

    However, Microsoft’s Wilson stressed
    that the software giant intends to increase user security, not reduce the
    control the user has over their computer.

    “We have always been very clear that
    NGSCB was never designed to be a system that would ‘lock-in’ users or decrease
    the flexibility of the Windows computing experience,” she said. “Our vision has
    always been to provide benefits in terms of security, privacy, and system
    integrity while preserving the flexibility of Windows.”

    If Microsoft – and more importantly,
    third-party content providers – give consumers full control over how the
    technology is used in their systems, the security benefits could significantly
    increase the protection of PC data, the University of Maryland’s Arbaugh

    “This technology could be used for
    some really heavy handed digital-rights management (DRM) but it can also be used
    for some great improvements in security,” he said. “I think finding that sweet
    spot will be a technical challenge as well as a policy