A high-profile digital civil liberties group is criticizing a component of the “trusted computing” technology promoted by Microsoft, IBM and other technology companies, calling the feature a threat to computer users.
The paper, which was set to be released late Wednesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, analyzes the promised features of several different trusted computing initiatives. The efforts aim to develop next-generation hardware and software that can better protect data from attackers, viruses and digital pirates.
Applauded in the paper are three features of the best-known trusted computing technology, Microsoft's Next-Generation Secure Computing Base, that may be positive ways of securing consumers' computers. However, the EFF criticized a fourth feature–known as remote attestation–as a threat that could lock people into certain applications, force unwanted software changes on them and prevent reverse engineering.
Remote attestation allows other organizations that “own” content on a person's computer to ascertain whether the data or software has been modified. Such technology could easily be at odds with a computer owner's interests, said Seth Schoen, staff technologist for the EFF and the primary author of the paper.
“We have a technology that doesn't exist today, which computer users are being asked to adopt,” Schoen said. “If the new technology can be used in many ways that run counter to the interest of the people, then I think asking them to adopt it doesn't make any sense.” [Privacy Digest]