[coreboot] (no subject)

Nathaniel Dube njdube at gmail.com
Thu Jun 12 08:34:18 CEST 2008

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First off, I'm by no means a engineer.  This message is going out to real 
engineers that might have interest in bringing the idea I'm about to share 
with you to reality.  This idea came to me after some light reading about 
rootkits on wikipedia and playing around with the program "rkhunter".  

Malware designers are writing code that can infect a system via rootkits.  
I've even read about the possibility of malware that can infect ROM chips on 
mother boards as well as ROM chips on PCI cards.  Meaning, anything that is 
rewritable isn't safe from malware.  Then it dawned on me that most of these 
security issues could be minimized at the hardware level at preboot, meaning 
before the operating system loads.

My brother brought his laptop to me complaning the internet wont work and that 
it's slow as a whale turd.  When I looked at it I found it swarming with 
viruses.  I asked him what happened to the firewall and antivirus that In 
installed for him and he said he turned them off because the firewall was 
messing with his internet and he didn't know how to turn it off with out also 
turning off the antivirus.  I think it was Eset Internet Security.  I use 
Linux on my system so I don't touch Windows software all that often.  I've 
come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what software you put on there 
or what you do, stupid users (and most users are stupid) will fsck up there 

That's when I decided that mother boards need to be dramatically redesigned 
from the ground up with a proactive role in security.  Now here's where I 
will start with my wonderful idea that will save the world.  You will either 
see that world with me or you wont.

I'm sure most of you are aware of the history of the BIOS and the ROM's 
they're on.  Back in the day they really where ROM in every sense of the term 
that they where READ only.  They where embed on the board so you would need a 
solder iron to remove them.  Then they came out with the removable kind with 
sockets that you can replace with a new chip.  Then comes the kind you can 
flash with software but are embedded.  I'm sorry but impeded un-removeable ROM 
chips are completely asinine.  Now on to my idea.

Instead of one ROM chip for the BIOS there should be 3 and use "coreboot" as 
the BIOS.  All 3 will utilize sockets to be removeable for easy replacement.  
The first chip will have the purpose as a backup of the default BIOS and the 
chip will be read only.  The second chip will house a copy of the primary 
BIOS which will be rewritable and allow for updates.  The third chip I will 
call the ESP (Emergency Security Protocols) ROM which may or may not be read 
only, I haven't decided yet.  The third chip will have the open source 
programs rkhunter, clamav and perhaps other programs that might be useful for 
a preboot.

In the event the other two are corrupted for what ever reason you need only 
flip a jumper, turn on the computer and the backup BIOS takes control and 
allows you to wipe the other two chips and restore a rewritable copy of the 
BIOS to chip 2 and the ESP BIOS to chip 3.  The backup BIOS will also have 
the Linux program "wipe" so in the unlikeliness a rootkit takes control of 
chips 2 and 3 chip 1 will wipe it out and start from scratch.

This board will also have integrated wifi as well as lan making it easy to get 
a internet connection.  The goal being to be able to update the signatures of 
rkhunter and clamav as well as update both firmware by direct download before 
the OS even loads.  This entire process will have a liberal use of checksums 
to make sure at no time is any malware being installed during the preboot 

I'm still trying to work out the finer details in my head.  So my idea may 
make sense or it may not.  Ultimately what I'm trying to do is build a mother 
board with BIOS backup/security redundancy.  The 3 chips act as a triad that 
protect one another.  The board should be designed so it tries to load the 
second chip with the rewritable BIOS and use the third chip to do a quick 
self scan for rootkits.  If for some reason the first BIOS wont load it will 
fall back on the backup BIOS restoring the primary.  Perhaps some one can 
share a better way of implimenting my idea.  The goal is to make it damn near 
impossible for malware to alter or change the BIOS or load at preboot.  These 
security meause could also be used to protect rewritable ROM on other 

Please share your thoughts.  I would really like to see a board like this see 
the light of reality.
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