Dell to Add Security Chip to PCs

Mark Allen Earnest mxe20 at
Fri Feb 4 11:30:48 PST 2005

Trei, Peter wrote:
> It could easily be leveraged to make motherboards
> which will only run 'authorized' OSs, and OSs
> which will run only 'authorized' software.
> And you, the owner of the computer, will NOT
> neccesarily be the authority which gets to decide
> what OS and software the machine can run.
> If you 'take ownership' as you put it, the internal
> keys and certs change, and all of a sudden you
> might not have a bootable computer anymore.
> Goodbye Linux.
> Goodbye Freeware.
> Goodbye independent software development.
> It would be a very sad world if this comes
> to pass.

Yes it would, many governments are turning to Linux and other freeware. 
Many huge companies make heavy use of Linux and and freeware, suddenly 
losing this would have a massive effect on their bottom line and 
possibly enough to impact the economy as a whole. Independent software 
developers are a significant part of the economy as well, and most 
politicians do not want to associate themselves with the concept of 
"hurting small business". Universities and other educational 
institutions will fight anything that resembles what you have described 
tooth and nail.

To think that this kind of technology would be mandated by a government 
is laughable. Nor do I believe there will be any conspiracy on the part 
of ISPs to require to in order to get on the Internet. As it stands now 
most people are running 5+ year old computer and windows 98/me, I doubt 
this is going to change much because for most people, this does what 
they want (minus all the security vulnerabilities, but with NAT 
appliances those are not even that big a deal). There is no customer 
demand for this technology to be mandated, there is no reason why an ISP 
or vendor would want to piss off significant percentages of their 
clients in this way. The software world is becoming MORE open. Firefox 
and Openoffice are becoming legitimate in the eyes of government and 
businesses, Linux is huge these days, and the open source development 
method is being talked about in business mags, board rooms, and 
universities everywhere.

The government was not able to get the Clipper chip passed and that was 
backed with the horror stories of rampant pedophilia, terrorism, and 
organized crime. Do you honestly believe they will be able to destroy 
open source, linux, independent software development, and the like with 
just the fear of movie piracy, mp3 sharing, and such? Do you really 
think they are willing to piss off large sections of the voting 
population, the tech segment of the economy, universities, small 
businesses, and the rest of the world just because the MPAA and RIAA 
don't like customers owning devices they do not control?

It is entirely possibly that a machine like you described will be built, 
  I wish them luck because they will need it. It is attempted quite 
often and yet history shows us that there is really no widespread demand 
for iOpeners, WebTV, and their ilk. I don't see customers demanding 
this, therefor there will probably not be much of a supply. Either way, 
there is currently a HUGE market for general use PCs that the end user 
controls, so I imagine there will always be companies willing to supply 

My primary fear regarding TCPA is the remote attestation component. I 
can easily picture Microsoft deciding that they do not like Samba and 
decide to make it so that Windows boxes simply cannot communicate with 
it for domain, filesystem, or authentication purposes. All they need do 
is require that the piece on the other end be signed by Microsoft. Heck 
they could render http agent spoofing useless if they decide to make it 
so that only IE could connect to ISS. Again though, doing so would piss 
off a great many of their customers, some of who are slowly jumping ship 
to other solutions anyway.


Mark Allen Earnest
Lead Systems Programmer
Emerging Technologies
The Pennsylvania State University

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