sábado, 8 de octubre de 2011

Why I failed the Windows 8 Logo Program

With all this uproar because of the implementation of UEFI as a requirement for the Windows 8 Logo Program, I decided to apply to get it because of the advantages it offers. You know, I tend to boot up rather slowly in the morning: I walk around my house in a state of semi-consciousness until all the proper drivers and modules are loaded. It would be great just to wake up and boot up into my operating system in the blink of an eye.

I discovered that one of the requirements to apply for the Windows 8 Logo Program, before I boot up, is to have secure boot enabled by default. I also must carry several sets of keys, all for the sake of prevention. According to MS, if I do not, some malicious thoughts could hijack the boot process and then I would be cast into a zombie state, controlled by some criminal or terrorist. Thus, I might end writing and sending millions of useless postcards...That's scary, isn't it?

So, the basic idea, protection from criminals, sounds appealing. Yet, I started asking some questions and found some problematic issues hidden below the surface of the venerable claim of security:

1. The keys and what you wear

The keys that they give me allow me to boot up super fast because they restrict the elements that I need to function. For instance, I will save time getting to work because I won't have problems remembering where I left my glasses the night before. What's more, in theory, even if a malicious poltergeist wants to play with my eye-prescription device, the mischievous spirit won't be able to. However, there is a big problem with this approach depending on who provides the keys. Let us suppose that MS allows OEMs (Organism Evaluating Mechanisms) to provide their keys. The control on what I boot up into will be so tight that if I, by any chance, want to wear a pair of glasses that is not certified by the key that they gave me, I will be treated like the poltergeist myself. Yes, I'd be in trouble to change my shirt, too. This will make a uniform world, indeed. I'm surprised that the United States, a country that defends individual rights with a passion, might meekly agree to let everyone use "the same clothes". Everyone into the same school uniform! How about that?

But the most worrisome part comes next...

2. Secure boot and the right to think

The fact that I cannot choose my glasses manifests something important that is underlying this prohibition disguised as "prevention". If this so called "secure boot" will not let me swap glasses or shirts easily (action), my right to consider wearing some glasses other than the certified ones (thought) is taken away from me. That is, I cannot even think about wearing anything else... Not even the widely-used MS XP Professional SP3 Glasses, for example. Paradoxically, I won't even be able to replace my MS 8 glasses (OEM version) by a brand new a pair of boxed MS 8 glasses if the keys are given by an OEM and not MS itself. You see, my individual right to think about choosing what I want simply ceases to exist.

You might think that all this is simply solved by disabling secure boot. You are, of course, absolutely right; I also thought that way. And that's the reason why I failed the Windows 8 Logo Program: you must have secure boot enabled BY DEFAULT to apply, remember?

I guess I value my freedom more than the Logo. In the end, if I'm free, I can take care of my security myself.

On a serious note, next time I need to buy a computer, I'll make sure I'll purchase it from a manufacturer that respects my freedom to choose.

1 comentario:

  1. It's really sad to see how more and more tech rights are taken away from the consumer in the name of "safety." It's even worse, though, to see how consumers simply accept such policies without questioning anything. Soon, people will have, instead of a computer, a dumbed down gadget with lots of restrictions and, very likely, the same old problems that MS systems have had since the beginning.

    Oh, will those products be cheaper on account of their features they lack? I bet not.