[coreboot] Coreboot and the NSA's expressed preference for subverting BIOSes

David Hendricks david.hendricks at gmail.com
Tue Dec 31 22:24:15 CET 2013

On Sun, Dec 29, 2013 at 5:06 PM, David Collier-Brown <davecb.42 at gmail.com>wrote:

> May I request you loudly announce how one checksums one's coreboot,
> and in principle other BIOSes, so that one can see if anyone has changed
> firmware critical to one's security.

Depends... In general this is not done by the firmware at all. Instead, one
would either read the system firmware ROM using an independent
microcontroller before taking the system out of reset, or after the system
has booted by using a tool such as flashrom (http://www.flashrom.org) to
read the firmware ROM and then perform the checksum on the output binary.
Most systems don't have the microcontroller necessary for the former, and
the latter can be tricked with sufficient effort. There are many practical
considerations to each approach.

For Chromebooks, full verification is built into coreboot and also utilizes
hardware write-protection to ensure there is always a trusted read-only
copy of the firmware that is run when the machine is turned on. Any field
updateable  portions of the firmware are verified before being run. A
detailed overview is available
and the code is open-sourced and can be adapted to other (non-Chromebook)

I'm am not certain about other secure boot mechanisms out there, but AFAIK
they are usually intended to verify the payload (bootloader, OS kernel,
etc) rather than the firmware itself. They're pretty much all
closed-source, so unless you have a license to the source code you really
can't know if they do what you want or that the security model is not
easily broken.

Hope that helps to answer your question.
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