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LinuxBIOS talk video recording from FOSDEM 2007

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Highly recommended for anybody who might be even remotely interested in LinuxBIOS:

There's a video recording (OGG, 234 MB) of the LinuxBIOS talk at FOSDEM 2007 by LinuxBIOS-founder Ron Minnich.

The talk is about LinuxBIOS, its history, how it works, what the main challenges are, where it's used today and what the future will likely hold. Watch it, you won't regret it.

And if you want to know more, or maybe even consider contributing, head over to linuxbios.org or contact the mailing list.

FOSDEM interview with LinuxBIOS founder Ronald G. Minnich

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A few interesting interviews with speakers at the upcoming FOSDEM 2007 have been published.

I especially recommend reading the interview with Ronald G. Minnich, the founder of the LinuxBIOS project.

Here are the questions he was asked:

  • What's your goal for your talk at FOSDEM?
  • We saw the mention on the LinuxBIOS website about one million devices shipped with LinuxBIOS. Could you tell us more about these devices?
  • What kind of support have you received from chipset and motherboard manufacturers so far?
  • Could LinuxBIOS theoretically replace all BIOSes, of are there certain limitations to be taken into account?
  • Could you tell us a bit more about the BIOS side of the OLPC laptop?
  • What exactly is the difference between "easy" hardware to write a BIOS for, and the "tough" hardware?
  • What are your thoughts on the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)?

Answers here ;-)

GNUFI - The GNU Firmware Implementation

Johan Rydberg has recently announced his Free Software (GPL) firmware implementation named GNUFI.

GNUFI is designed to be a firmware compatible with the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specification.

GNUFI is designed so that it can be adopted to different runtime environments; such as a legacy BIOS or U-boot environment, or as a LinuxBIOS payload.

At this point there has not been any official release of GNUFI. The version controlled source repository can be accessed using Bazaar:

bzr branch http://gnufi.openbios.org/gnufi.dev

If you're interested in early testing and/or helping with development also checkout the wiki / bug tracker and the mailing list.

Towards a moderately paranoid Debian laptop setup [Update]

I was planning to set up my laptop from scratch for a while now... so I did.

Preparation

  • First, go home. No, really! Do all of this at home in a non-hostile, firewalled network. You don't want to be in a crowded place such as a conference where people can shoulder-surf your passwords, nor do you want your network traffic sniffed or MITM'd in a hostile network.
  • Backup all your data! You'll be wiping your whole drive soon, so make sure you have recent, tested backups.
  • Get the most recent Debian-installer ISO image (currently etch-beta3), as well as the MD5SUMS and MD5SUMS.sign files:
    wget http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/etch_di_beta3/i386/iso-cd/debian-testing-i386-binary-1.iso
    wget http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/etch_di_beta3/i386/iso-cd/MD5SUMS
    wget http://cdimage.debian.org/cdimage/etch_di_beta3/i386/iso-cd/MD5SUMS.sign
  • Run gpg --verify MD5SUMS.sign, which will fail but tell you the signing key ID (88C7C1F7 in this case). Get the key and re-run the verification: gpg --recv-key --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net 88C7C1F7 && gpg --verify MD5SUMS.sign. The output should now say "Good signature from [...]".
  • Now check the MD5 checksums via md5sum -c MD5SUMS. The output should contain debian-testing-i386-binary-1.iso: OK.
  • As you now have (somewhat) verified the integrity of the ISO image, burn it on a CD-R: wodim debian-testing-i386-binary-1.iso.
  • Put trusted versions of some files on a USB thumb drive (or CD-ROM); at least a firewall script, but maybe also your bashrc, bash_logout, inputrc, vimrc, muttrc.
  • Disconnect your laptop from any kinds of networks. Pull all ethernet cables. Disable WLAN (via hardware killswitch). Disable Bluetooth. Disable/remove Firewire, USB, serial, whatever.
  • Put on your tin-foil hat (optional).

BIOS

  • Set a good BIOS boot password (which you need to boot any OS). Set a (different) good BIOS boot setup password (which you need to enter the BIOS).
  • Disable all boot possibilities in the BIOS, except for CD-ROM. This means it should not be possible to boot via USB, hard drive, network, PXE, Firewire, floppy, whatever. The BIOS setup password helps to prevent tampering with this setting.
  • Finally, never rely on BIOS passwords alone for security! They can often be circumvented very easily.

Installation / Setting up full-disk encryption using dm-crypt

  • Insert the installer CD and boot in expert-mode (don't hit ENTER when you boot, but rather type "expert").
  • As for networking: select "Do not configure the network at this time". We'll fix and enable networking later.
  • Partitioning:

    • Select manual partitioning. Remove all partitions (if any). Create a 100 MB /boot (ext3) as primary partition, and make the rest of the hard drive one huge partition which has "Use as:" set to "physical volume for encryption".
    • The standard options for cipher, key size, IV mode etc. should be fine (AES, 256 bit, CBC-ESSIV-SHA256, dm-crypt).
    • After the erasing is done (this is important!), use the whole encrypted space as "physical volume for LVM". Then select "Configure the Logical Volume Manager". Create one big volume group and a bunch of logical volumes for the various partitions we'll use (lv-root, lv-usr, lv-var, lv-tmp, lv-swap, lv-home).
    • It is extremely important that your swap space is encrypted (in this case it is, as all partitions except for /boot reside on a dm-crypt device)! Never set up unencrypted swap!
  • Enable shadow passwords. Allow login as root (I feel confident that I won't do stupid things as root).
  • Choose a good root password, and a (different) good user password. Don't enter a full name for the user.
  • Choose the latest kernel (old kernels might have security issues). Do not participate in popcon.
  • Do not install any tasks (no "desktop", no "base system"). We want the smallest installation possible, and add only the packages we really need. Fewer packages means fewer security issues (statistically).
  • That's it. Eject the CD-ROM, reboot, change the BIOS to only allow booting from hard drive.

Post-installation tasks

  • Enter the USB thumb drive, copy all config-files to /root and /home/uwe. Log out and log in again to make ~/.bashrc and ~/.inputrc take effect.
  • Enable the firewall: mkdir /etc/rc.boot && cp fw_laptop /etc/rc.boot && chmod 700 /etc/rc.boot/fw_laptop && sh /etc/rc.boot/fw_laptop
  • Shut down all networked daemons (if any): /etc/init.d/foo stop.
  • Tighten home-directory permissions: chmod 700 /root /home/uwe.
  • Edit /etc/passwd: give all users except for root, sync, uucp and your user account /usr/sbin/nologin as login shell. None of these accounts really needs a valid login shell (nologin will log any login attempts for those accounts).
  • Edit /etc/group: remove your user account from the dialout, cdrom, and floppy group. The groups audio, video, and plugdev can stay.
  • Edit /etc/fstab: add some mount options such as ro, nosuid, noexec, or nodev as you see fit. Example:
    /dev/mapper/vg--whole-lv--root /     ext3 defaults,errors=remount-ro      0 0
    /dev/sda2                      /boot ext3 defaults,nodev,nosuid,noexec,ro 0 0
    /dev/mapper/vg--whole-lv--home /home ext3 defaults,nodev,nosuid           0 0
    /dev/mapper/vg--whole-lv--tmp  /tmp  ext3 defaults,nodev,nosuid           0 0
    /dev/mapper/vg--whole-lv--usr  /usr  ext3 defaults,nodev,ro               0 0
    /dev/mapper/vg--whole-lv--var  /var  ext3 defaults,nodev                  0 0
    /dev/mapper/vg--whole-lv--swap none  swap sw                              0 0
    /dev/scd0 /media/cdrom iso9660 noauto,nodev,nosuid,noexec,uid=uwe,gid=uwe 0 0
    
  • If you have read-only (ro) file systems, configure Apt so that it can remount them read-write when installing/removing packages. Add this to /etc/apt/apt.conf:
    DPkg
    {
      Pre-Invoke { "mount -o remount,rw /usr; mount -o remount,rw /boot"; }
      Post-Invoke { "mount -o remount,ro /usr; mount -o remount,ro /boot"; }
    }
    
  • Fix the GRUB configuration. Replace the "password foo" line (which contains the GRUB password in plain-text) from your /boot/grub/menu.lst with a "password --md5 $1$1234567890..." line, where the MD5 hash ($1$1234567890...) can be generated with grub-md5-crypt. Additionally, add such a password line after each "title" line in the GRUB config-file, so that nobody can boot any OS installed on the laptop without a password!

Networking, Upgrading and Apt-secure

  • Now that we have a small, hardened system, it should be reasonably safe to enable networking. Add this to /etc/network/interfaces:
    auto eth0
    iface eth0 inet dhcp
      pre-up /etc/rc.boot/fw_laptop
    

    Run /etc/init.d/networking restart. The firewall script will run every time the network is started.

  • Now add this (tweak as you see fit) to /etc/apt/sources.list:
    deb http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian unstable main
    deb-src http://ftp.de.debian.org/debian unstable main
  • Time for upgrading: apt-get update && apt-get dist-upgrade. All packages are GnuPG-signed and will be verified by Apt. The installer already ships the required key (for 2006), so everything should just work. Still, you should read about SecureApt.
  • Install the rest of your system now, and restore your data from backups.
  • Use sysv-rc-conf to disable all daemons you don't want to start per default: sysv-rc-conf foo off.
  • Install and set up Samhain (or any other file integrity checker): apt-get install samhain. You want to be notified if your system files are being tampered with (e.g. replaced by a rootkit).
  • Install and configure Tor for anonymous browsing. More details here.
  • Install and configure more security-related programs, e.g. logcheck, snort, rkhunter, chkrootkit, tiger, sxid, etc.

SELinux

Now install and set up SELinux. This section is based on notes from Erich Schubert (thanks!), and will soon appear in the SELinuxSetup wiki page, too.

  • Install the base packages and an SELinux policy: apt-get install selinux-basics selinux-policy-refpolicy-targeted.
  • Edit /boot/grub/menu.lst and add selinux=1 to your kernel command line to enable SELinux upon booting.
  • In /etc/pam.d/login uncomment the "session required pam_selinux.so multiple" line. Do the same in /etc/pam.d/ssh if you have ssh installed.
  • In /etc/default/rcS set FSCKFIX=yes.
  • In /etc/init.d/bootmisc.sh search for "Update motd" and comment the two lines below that line. Then rm /var/run/motd.
  • If you have exim installed, you must either install postfix or write an exim policy, as none currently exists. But even postfix needs some fixing (no pun intended ;-). Disable chroot-support (change all "chroot" fields to "n" in /etc/postfix/master.cf and execute echo 'SYNC_CHROOT="n" >> /etc/default/postfix').
  • Use check-selinux-installation to check for common SELinux problems on Debian (such as the above mentioned).
  • touch /.autorelabel. Reboot. touch /.autorelabel (again). Reboot (again).
  • Done. You should now have a working SELinux system. If no critical audit errors appear and you feel comfortable with SELinux, enable enforcing mode via setenforce 1 or by adding enforcing=1 to the kernel command line in /boot/grub/menu.lst.

Behaviour

  • Never leave your laptop unattended!
  • Always lock your terminal (using vlock) when you move more than 30 cm away from the laptop!
  • Don't run insecure and/or closed-source software (which you can never trust!). No NVIDIA/ATI drivers, no VMware, no Google Earth, no Flash Plugin (except for Gnash maybe), no Adobe Acrobat. You get the idea.
  • Keep the number of installed packages small and try to configure each of them as secure as possible.
  • Never enable networking or WLAN or Bluetooth if you don't absolutely have to.
  • Trust no one. Don't let other people use you laptop, don't give out shell accounts.

Further ideas

  • The /boot partition is still unencrypted, so an attacker can tamper with it. Boot from a CD-R, forbid booting from hard drive (BIOS). Sign/mark the CD-R physically, so you'll know when someone replaced your CD-R with his own, back-doored one.
  • Another idea is to use an additionaly USB thumb drive or CD-ROM or smartcard for two-factor authentication.
  • Install another Debian into a QEMU image. Use it as a sandbox for stuff you don't trust: qemu -snapshot -net none foo.img.
  • At all costs, disable Firewire! If possible via hardware or BIOS, or at least don't load the drivers and/or fix them (page 19).
  • Replace the proprietary, closed-source BIOS with LinuxBIOS, if possible.

That's it. You can take off that stupid tin-foil hat now.

Update 2006-09-29: Fixed typos. Mentioned sxid. Added two-factor authentication.

LinuxBIOS Symposium 2006 Europe [Update]

For everybody who might be interested in this kind of stuff: the LinuxBIOS project's annual LinuxBIOS Symposium will take place October 1st-3rd, 2006 in the nice German city Hamburg.

In the light of the recent discussions about "sourceless firmware" and similar issues in Debian, some people might be interesting in helping with (or at least getting informed about) a practical project related to this - a free (GPL'd) BIOS replacement. It's quite likely that some OLPC people will be there, too, as the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project employs LinuxBIOS on their hardware...

Deadline for workshop and talk proposals is September 10th (if you should plan to give a talk), and a preliminary agenda is already available online. The registration process has also recently started (deadline is September 11th). See this post for the full announcement.

Now, if I manage to somehow gather a reasonably large amount of Euros, I'll probably be there.

Update 2006-09-11: I have decided to register for the conference, so I'll be there! Anyone else?

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