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Trusted Or Treacherous Computing? 208

theodp writes "Just because Richard Stallman is paranoid doesn't mean Microsoft's not out to get you. For a hint about the possible end-game of Microsoft's Trusted Computing Initiative, check out the patent application published Thanksgiving Day for Trusted License Removal, in which Microsoft describes how to revoke rights to render based on 'who the user is, where the user is located, what type of computing device or other playback device the user is using, what rendering application is calling the copy protection system, the date, the time, etc.' So much for Microsoft's you-should-have-control assurances."
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Trusted Or Treacherous Computing?

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  • by argoff ( 142580 ) * on Friday November 24, 2006 @06:31PM (#16978704)
    I saw it comming more than two years ago ... What DRM is REALLY REALLY REALLY about []
  • by quiberon2 ( 986274 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @06:37PM (#16978756)
    We have had 'certificate revocation' schemes in things like Distributed Computing Environment for a while.

    If you believe your password has been compromised, or your PIN had become known to someone else, then for 'high-value' systems you need to be able to administratively indicate that any 'authority to behave as you' is not to be believed any more.

    The 'personal' computing market is splitting.

    If you inflict this kind of feature on a lawyer, doctor, or engineer, who is trying to go about their professional work, you cause loss and damage and you get your product thrown out post-haste as unfit for purpose. Lawyer, doctor, and engineer have plenty of money and need the top-grade service.

    If you give someone a cheap deal on a Star Wars DVD because of them being willing to accept the possibility that their permission to view it might disappear unexpectedly, then that's rather like having a 'standby list' of people who might or might not be able to get on a plane at cheap prices according as whether the plane fills up with full-price passengers.

  • by epp_b ( 944299 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @07:27PM (#16979116)

    Of course it's "treacherous", not "trusted". It's about taking control away from the owner, the user; and giving it to a remote entity. Hasn't it always been?

    Clear evidence of this comes to light when you think closely about the proposed "Owner Override" feature that would effectively disable an onboard TPM chip...or maybe not, depending on whether or not we're being lied to about that.

    First off, if this feature is really everything we're told it is -- that it really disables the TPM chip -- then what is the entire point of this? To have software, music and video vendors build their content around a supposedly "unbreakable" remote control scheme in their power...only to be broken by a built-in flick-of-a-switch feature?

    And if we are being lied to about "owner override", then it's clear there is something they want to maintain hidden from us.

    Either way, it won't work. Somewhere on the motherboard, between the keyboard and the hard drive, if you will, data must be unencrypted. You just can't keep something that is exclusively mine and in my possession, a secret from me!

  • by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @07:52PM (#16979360) Journal
    The TCPA and TCG technical specifications define what it means to be an "owner" of a device, to "take ownership" of a device. The ability to revoke features on device like this if you, the consumer who purchased the device (the "owner" in the legal sense) is not really problematic. It's a useful feature, in case, eg, your device is stolen.

    The problem , of course, comes when you buy or rent a Trusted Computing device from a vendor who has previously "taken ownership" of the device before your purchase, in the technical sense put forth in the spec. If you're renting it, then it's legally the property of the vendor, and they have every right to control of their property. But if you purchase a device outright, there's no excuse for a vendor to retain ownership in the technical sense if they have ceded it to you in the legal one. This is the Crux of all the "evil" potential that Trusted Computing has. If the consumer is the owner, there's not much vendors can do to be evil with it.

    The features of Trusted Computing devices work, and they are genuinely useful - but they only serve the "owner" of the device. It is our responsibility to demand full ownership of our devices (and not to settle for "rented" equipment, in the technical sense or the legal one).
  • by deathy_epl+ccs ( 896747 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @08:10PM (#16979510)
    Yes, since the user having the keys solves the problem. Not.

    Surveys have shown that users are willing to give out their passwords for a piece of chocolate. Cars are Hijacked every day, and the user just gets out of the car leaving the keys to the attacker. I'm not saying that a TPM chip is the best way to solve the problem, but merely putting it in the users hands doesn't solve much of anything.

    I think the real problem here is the lengthening of the digital divide. The people who would benefit from these features are the people who would hand out their password for a chocolate crisp. These people might have some to lose from Treacherous Computing, but not as much as those who are smart enough to know better.

    I wonder if Microsoft is aware that they are driving away the technically savvy? Most of us who use Windows and have some tech savvy are the gamer audience and even though making the move back to running a Unix-derived OS of some sort will impact my primary use for my home computer, I am still starting to seriously plan for it. I wonder how many other gamers are thinking the same thing? I wonder if Microsoft has considered how much losing a big share of the gamer market will hurt them? It is my opinion that a significant chunk of the home market is Windows because that's what the games run on, and if game developers suddenly find it economical or desirable to port their games to different platforms, that could have a pretty significant impact on Microsoft's stranglehold on PC gaming.

    Of course, I'm probably just a statistical anomaly, but I like to hope I'm not... heheheheh

  • by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @08:40PM (#16979736) Homepage
    Microsoft's ultimate goal is to have code in their products that allows it to intelligently deal with anything Microsoft might see as a threat. For example, if it saw evidence that it was in a virtual machine (ex The Matrix) it could freak out and retaliate. Retaliation could be anything from an error dialog to a grind-to-a-halt command that can only be undone if the user upgrades.

    Think about it. It would be like having a Microsoft board member sitting inside of your computer! The best part is that he can phone home whenever he wishes, to be updated.

    Windows 98 was easy to pirate and hack.

    Windows XP was a little more difficult to pirate, but about the same to hack. The protections in place caused a large annoyance to those that bought the software legally. And that was BEFORE the WGA shit.

    Windows Vista will be more difficult to pirate/hack, but I GUARANTEE that it will be. Of course, the legal end user will suffer the most damage, as usual.

    I fucking loathe the day that mod chips become necessary to actually be in control of your own computer.
  • The last straw (Score:2, Interesting)

    by leeosenton ( 764295 ) on Friday November 24, 2006 @09:03PM (#16979918)
    This whole saga has been the final straw for me. I have kept a working install of Linux or BSD for several years, but always needed Windows for something. No more. I have rebuilt my system and shifted to Linux for all home computing. I have always wanted to switch, but never got around to solving each of the minor speed bumps that came along. It was just easier to boot Windows and do what I needed to do. When I wanted to play, I would boot Linux and tinker away. No more. I am completely switched and have remained Windows free for a month. Learning to use Linux and the accompanying applications takes time, not because it is hard, because it is different.

    Thank you, Microsoft. You have scared me with the latest blatant attempt to derail open source by dividing the community. The increased presence of DRM in Windows gives me chills, I don't think I can control my own data when you keep the keys to my computer. I don't call Chevrolet for permission to drive to work, I'll be damned if I need your permission to access my own data. Here is the summary, you are fired! Don't worry about pirate protection, trust me, I won't bother. I think I can find the energy (and community support) to solve my remaining migration issues.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:25PM (#16980992)
    Reading this stuff makes me glad I got into computers early (mid 80s). I had my fun while the area was growing fast and furious and you were positively encouraged to hack hardware, write and change software and just plain have fun with the hardware and software you owned (yep, that's right... not leased but *owned*). Sure it's starting to turn to shit now with hyper-paranoid software giants, retrograde patent and copywrite laws, DMCA, treacherous computing, DRM etc., but from my selfish vantage point... I've had my fun, and can move on to greener pastures with few regrets.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 24, 2006 @11:35PM (#16981058)
    It looks like what is needed is a Constitutional garentee that protects us from these technology abuses. First off, when a consumer buy a license to something that license must be trasferable as the consumer see fit, as long as the transfer does not cost (not the same as not making additional money, as they would have you believe) the content provider any money.

    Example: you have the lo-def Start Wars DVD but you want the latest Star Wars HD DVD (physical or downloaded from provider) you must pay. After you pay, you must be allowed to, at your own expense convert, retransmit or duplicate said content to any device proven to be yours, with out exception. You must not be allowed to transfer to a device that is not yours with out the content creator/owners permission. It is their content if it copyrighted, but it is YOUR license - this is what everybobdy MUST understand if there is going to be any viable solution. Both sides must be protected, both sides must give a little.

    It is unfair to consumers when they must continue to pay for content that they have already purchaed when there is NO cost to the original provider when they simply want to make the best use of the technology they posess, and this is only possible because of the absolute monopoly that a content provider has- they are THE only one that has the content. There is NO choice of where to get Star Wars from. The monopoly they have makes the whole Microsoft thing look silly, but no one says a word.

    Although to be fair to content providers, any license that cannot be enforced in such a system must be exempt- that is, your old Star Wars DVD cannot be converted to a HI-DEF version.

    The second part of the amendment is really just the First Amendment re-worded- just replace the words Congress, Government, State with Corporate Entity or Special Interest Group. These people cannot be allowed to dictate policy anymore.

    The third part of the Amendment is that this sort of technology must not be used in a manner that has no direct consumer/end user benifit - that mean no approved spyware and no lock-in/out. The extent of DRM and Trusted Computing should be to provide a reasonable framework to allow fair business- for both proprietary and free solutions.

    We need to make this a 2008 political hot button issue people. We cannot allow matters like this to be decided by people who can only relate the Internet to plumbing to decide who, how, when, where and why we can use technology - it is bad for business, it is bad for society, it is bad any way you look at it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 25, 2006 @01:43AM (#16981776)
    the kind that sells their service to load your goods into their truck and transport them to your new home, then ransoms your personal possessions for additional fees.

    Bernard Swiss
  • by grahammm ( 9083 ) * <> on Saturday November 25, 2006 @04:15AM (#16982374)
    There is nothing actually wrong with Microsoft producing the tools. What is wrong is for Microsoft to use the tools. They should be producing the tools for use by law enforcement. Other companies and industries design and make tools for law enforcement to use, and do not use them themselves to enforce the law. So why should Microsoft not do the same rather than acting as vigilantes and taking the law into their own hands?
  • Re:Say what? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 25, 2006 @04:31AM (#16982414)
    I agree. If I download a piece of software, I should be able to use it as I see fit.

    As one person mentioned earlier, checks and balances were put into place, because power corrupts everyone. This includes not only Microsoft, but also you and me.

    Let's be fair to Microsoft:
    Copies of Office, NT/2000/XP/2003, along with KEY CODES are widely available on the internet.
    How can MS prevent thieves? There's nothing to stop you from using that copy of Office with the correct key-code.

    Let's be fair to user X:
    Before we say anything about the NEW stuff, let's talk DOS6.0, Win3X/95/98/me/2k/03/.
    If you received the original disks, and installed it, you can use it.
    This is fine for me, when I received an old 95 CD, when an office threw it out for Win2K.
    I should be able to use this software, because the product was bought and transferred to me.

    The "sharing" of Microsoft products is Microsoft's concern, so it's not surprising they're going towards a hardware solution similar to MAC. Funny, MAC is having its own issues of "sharing" of MAC on X386, since coming onboard the x86 architecture.

    The ultimate solution for both Microsoft and Apple will be a proprietary X86 hardware and software solution. I won't fathom the best solution, but essentially, that hardware will be tied to a software licence that allows hardware upgrades and newer versions of Windows to be installed, but provides for a hardware-specific implementation, along with a server-side validation.

    I would think an additional EPROM that ties to the BIOS and OS would be the solution.
    This may not stop foreign license trolls, but it would stop the typical USA business from making a mistake of installing the same OS on different computers.

    Why is MS's plan bad?
    It is inconvienient for MS customers to upgrade hardware. It is also too worried about virtualization being used for nefarious reasons, like "One licence, many people".

    Virtualization Paranoia:
    Current virtualization takes an instance of WinXP, just say, and runs it in a "sand-box".
    However, each instance still runs on the same machine. Thus, that machine running XP three-times is taxed 3x for each instance of XP. A cheating company would be using one machine for 3 people. This isn't very realistic, is it? A virtualized instance of XP sent to any one computer in a set of computers makes money-sense to the company wanting to rip-off Microsoft. This is where a Hardware/software STACK that Apple used to have makes sense. Apple could have applied multiple digital signatures, if it thought instances of its OS were being farmed to empty workstations. Now, Microsoft will disallow home users in EULA for virtualization, in fears that their top-heavy approach to a heterogeneous set of x86 computers could be forgotten with virtualization. This EULA really stopped the thieves, didn't it? What???

    Let's be fair to Sun/HP and MAC "HARDWARE-SOFTWARE" stacks.
    It's funny, that we think of Microsoft as being "mature", because of the number of drivers it supports. Now, as Microsoft actually really matures to the UNIX level of maturity, one sees the need for a propietary HARDWARE-SOFTWARE stack, where the hardware and software set the bounds, and complete seperation of the hardware from the softare (EG new computer -cpu,bios,chipset,etc- ) requires validation from MS. Does this sound a lot like pre-x86-MAC or Sun, HP? Ahh, the real cost of producing a propietary OS for a specific architecture isn't in the number of drivers, but the management of your licensing agreement.

    Let's be fair to Linux:
    Linux is free, and has a lot of drivers, but then, may not.
    If MS and HP want to compete, go back to the OLD model, and offer guarenteed hardware comptatiblility. Linux will drive down price with no guarentee that it works over time for a given hardware, but then the propietary software marches on. Linux will also be there for hardware not compliant with MS or Sun or HPUX hardware compatibility, for instance.

  • by UncleOwl ( 1016926 ) on Saturday November 25, 2006 @06:35AM (#16982836) Homepage
    I completely agree with the parent. I am that old too - but it took some time. Actually I remained a cluelessly happy MS user until having to compile and teach a course on various IT issues including its history (was back in 2000). Digging into the books and websites for course materials, I unearthed so much stinky stuff about a certain corporation and their typical practices that it made me sick. Thankfully, in those days Stardivision released their StarOffice 5.1 and 5.2 which along with Mandrake (6.1?) gave me a mostly working platform for academic office needs. Since then it has been Linux for me.

    But the real problem is IMHO still the champignon syndrome (kept in dark, fed on shit) of normal, ordinary people (not to say this is unique to IT - happens elsewhere too). As long as the typical Joe/Jane Sixpack does not care, things like this will go on. This is universal - people who are well-educated and smart otherwise are equally clueless in this matter (e.g. it has been a big news for many of them that you should not use your XP without password and in admin mode).

    Quoting a popular movie: blue or red pill?

Scientists are people who build the Brooklyn Bridge and then buy it. -- William Buckley