Trusted computing and global control: TCPA and Trusted Computing Group

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This post contains informations required by the other ones about this topic.

From Wikipedia’s voice about TCG:

The Trusted Computing Group (TCG), successor to the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA), is an initiative started by AMD, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Infineon, Intel, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems to implement Trusted Computing. Many others followed.

TCG’s original major goal was the development of a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), a semiconductor intellectual property core or integrated circuit that conforms to the trusted platform module specification put forward by the Trusted Computing Group and is to be included with computers to enable trusted computing features. TCG-compliant functionality has since been integrated directly into certain mass-market chipsets.

TCG also recently released the first version of their Trusted Network Connect (TNC) protocol specification, based on the principles of AAA, but adding the ability to authorize network clients on the basis of hardware configuration, BIOS, kernel version, and which updates that have been applied to the OS and anti-virus software, etc. As of December 2006, almost one hundred fifty enterprises are members of TCG or follow its specifications.

Seagate has also developed a Full Disk encryption drive which can use the ability of the TPM to secure the key within the hardware chip.

A common misconception regarding TPM-enabled computers is that it would require all software to have a license from the TCG or some other central body. In reality, the owner of a TPM-enabled system has complete control over what software does and doesn’t run on their system. This does include the possibility that a system owner would choose to run a version of an operating system that refuses to load unsigned or unlicensed software, but those restrictions would have to be enforced by the operating system and not by the TCG technology. What a TPM does provide in this case is the capability for the OS to lock software to specific machine configurations, meaning that “hacked” versions of the OS designed to get around these restrictions would not work. While there is legitimate concern that OS vendors could use these capabilities to restrict what software would load under their OS (hurting small software companies or open source/shareware/freeware providers, and causing vendor lock-in for some data formats), no OS vendor has yet suggested that this is planned. Furthermore, since restrictions would be a function of the operating system, TPMs could in no way restrict alternative operating systems from running, including free or open source operating systems. There are several projects which are experimenting with TPM support in free operating systems – examples of such projects include a TPM device driver for Linux, an open source implementation of the TCG’s Trusted Software Stack called TrouSerS, a Java interface to TPM capabilities called TPM/J, and a TPM-supporting version of the Grub bootloader called TrustedGrub.

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