Security

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Revision as of 00:54, 17 January 2016 by GNUtoo (talk | contribs) (Existing security features)
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The wiki is being retired!

Documentation is now handled by the same processes we use for code: Add something to the Documentation/ directory in the coreboot repo, and it will be rendered to https://doc.coreboot.org/. Contributions welcome!

This page explains how coreboot can help with various security aspects of your system, compared to closed-source, legacy BIOS/EFI/firmware implementations.

This page is work in progress!

Free software

Security fixes

Fixes can take months before being available on non-free firwmares, if you are lucky enough to have them. With free software boot fimrwares, security issues can be fixed, and in coreboot many are.

Examples:

Security fixes are usually mentioned in coreboot ChangeLog on the blog.

Coreboot

Note that while coreboot itself is free software, many boards still use blobs. Some however don't require any.

Auditable code

Because the boot firmware is the first code that executes on the main CPU, it's an interesting target for rootkits:

  • The code that runs first has to load what runs next, so it can patch it. That patch can then in turn patch what's next and so on.
  • The code that runs first can setup SMM. SMM is more powerful than ring0. non-free boot firmwares have a tendency to put a lot of code to run in SMM. In contrast coreboot keep it to a minimum.

Given the above, being able to know what your boot fimrware does is very important.

Existing security features

Given that, with coreboot, the hardware initialization is separated from the boot logic, many security features are implemented by payloads. Nevertheless, coreboot implement some security features.

GRUB SeaBIOS Depthcharge
Password verification Yes No  ?
Signature verification Yes No Yes
Can open encrypted partition Yes No No

Common security features

  • Boot password (like BIOS password)
  • Signature verification - option to boot from payload only signed images

Bayou / coreinfo / GRUB2 have "BIOS password"-like feature, using SHA-1 hashes stored in NVRAM or the (flash) ROM chip. GRUB2 can also do signature verification of on-disk operating systems. TianoCore could probably be adapted to support either, too.

Both features are in the payload domain since coreboot doesn't provide a user interface.

  • RAM wiping after each boot

This is not very useful: The most interesting time would be right before power-off, which could be implemented in SMM. Unfortunately a cautious attacker just pulls the plug.


To prevent reading data after a reboot, a payload could be adapted to clean out memory. Using applications that manage sensible data sensibly (ie. wipe after use) is still a better solution.

  • Support booting from encrypted block devices/volumes

GRUB2 can do that.

Current BIOS issues

RAM wiping

SMI issues

ATA issues

Firewire issues

TPM issues