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Palladium sounds scary, and could be a way to slow down or derail open source and free software. Sounds like it involves modifying CPUs to contain a security code which some or all applications will need in order to operate.


It's a mixed bag. Palladium/Trusted Windows might be used by Microsoft or other companies to lock down systems - or, it might be used to provide security that is of value to the end user. I worked on parts of the Intel hardware support for this, largely because I want to bring value to the end user - I want, myself, or my mother, to be able to go to any computer and starting using it to do things like buying books at Amazon, with some reasonable assurance that I am not talking to a Trojan horse that is recorded my credit cards.

The basis of this approach to security is that it should be possible for software to tell that it is running on a simulator or a debugger. A chain of authentication starts off with the basic hardware, and verifies that all the hardware and software in the system (or, at least, all of the hardware and software in the system that can affect security) are trusted. E.g. you may not care what games are installed that run on top of a secure OS, but you need to know that the OS is secure, and you may need to authenticate the database running on top of that OS if that's what you are using, etc.

The ultimate is for every user to have a "security amulet" that constantly provides secure challenge/response. No passwords. One big issue is, who "attests" that a configuration is trusted? And what information is preserved to provide that? I would be lying if I said that I had not had vociferous arguments with people who, IMHO, promote attestation models that are a threat to privacy, e.g. models that essentially allow people to track you wherever you go.

But I am fairly confident that good, privacy protecting, attestation and authentication models can be created. Similarly, this sort of security may actually help free software rather than hinder it: users may decide to use free software rather than a proprietary system, if there are too many hassles with the latter. Yes, there could be problems if too many commercial vendors refuse to trust any version of free software, e.g. disallowing web credit card purchases from Mozilla; but, conversely, if enough people use free software, sellers will figure out ways to trust it.

It might somewhat reduce the diversity of free software - you may only want to use "proven correct" versions of the LINUX kernel. On the other hand, it may encourage OSes to be structured so that less stuff is in the security sensitive domain. this would be a good thing.



What If Palladium Doesn't Work?]]]]; Robert X. Cringely; 18 Jul 2002 -- some reasons why Palladium might fail

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  • () RandyKramer - 26 Jun 2002
  • AndyGlew - 15 Apr 2003
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