[Dewayne-Net] Apple tries to patent 'tamper-resistant software'

Dewayne Hendricks dewayne at warpspeed.com
Wed Nov 9 07:44:54 PST 2005

Apple tries to patent 'tamper-resistant software'

By Ina Fried

Story last modified Wed Nov 09 11:16:00 PST 2005

Apple Computer, which is in the process of switching to computers
based on the omnipresent Intel processor, has filed a patent
application describing a method for securely running Mac OS X on
specific hardware.

The Mac maker has applied for a patent to cover a "system and method
for creating tamper-resistant code." Apple describes ways of ensuring
that code can be limited to specific hardware, even in a world in
which operating systems can be run simultaneously, in so-called
virtual machines. The patent application was made in April of 2004,
but only made public last Thursday.

In its application, Apple describes a means of securing code using
either a specific hardware address or read-only memory (ROM) serial
number. Apple also talks about securing the code while interchanging
information among multiple operating systems. Mac OS X, Windows and
Linux are called out specifically in the filing.

"This invention relates generally to the field of computer data
processing and more particularly to techniques for creating tamper-
resistant software," Apple says in its patent filing. Specifically,
Apple refers to the technique of "code obfuscation," in which
software makers employ techniques that make it harder for those using
debuggers or emulators to figure out how a particular block of code
is working.
Apple's patent application comes as the company prepares to offer its
Mac OS X operating system for Intel-based chips, with the first
machines slated to go on sale next year.

Historically, the company has had to worry less about the Mac running
on non-Apple hardware because it has used different chips and other
components from those that power Windows PCs. With its move to Intel
chips, though, the innards of the Mac will become more similar to
those of its Windows-based counterparts.

The company said it is not planning on supporting Windows or other
operating systems on the Intel-based Macs it sells but has also said
it doesn't plan on taking steps to prevent Mac owners from running
other operating systems.
"We won't do anything to preclude that," Apple Senior Vice President
Phil Schiller told CNET News.com in June.

However, Schiller also said Apple has no plans to allow its operating
system to run on non-Apple hardware. "We will not allow running Mac
OS X on anything other than an Apple Mac," he said. An Apple
representative declined to comment Wednesday on the patent filing.
Clearly, though, Apple is gearing up the intellectual property push
around the Intel move.

The company has reportedly been beefing up the technology that
constrains the Intel versions of Mac OS X to run only on authorized
machines, to this point a set of test Macs given to developers. The
company has also applied for a trademark on Rosetta, its technology
for running existing Mac programs on the Intel chips.

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