Monday 12 October 2009

Maemo Security - Lockdown or Liberation?

At the Maemo2009 Summit Nokia shared a great deal of information about the security mechanisms that would be available and/or mandated in upcoming platforms.

The concepts outlined include well established favourites in the OSS world (like privilege management) as well as some that are rather less well regarded - such as relatives of the Trusted Computing Platform and DRM.

Inevitably there will be a significant amount of interest and concern about how this affects the open nature of the Maemo platform.

I'd like to highlight that there is a specific boot-path designed in to allow a community kernel to be booted with, as far as I could tell, no loss of functionality other than access to DRM content. That's amazingly positive.

For what it's worth I will say that I was massively sceptical as soon as I saw "Trusted Computing" and "DRM"; however after listening and thinking about it I came to the conclusion that this solution could be a huge benefit to the OSS community. Certainly Nokia can abuse it - but that's not the point. The point is do we - and should we - trust them.

We certainly need more security. Right now when I download an application from Extras-Devel it can do anything to my device; on an N800 that's not so bad - on an N900 that can incur significant cost and could conceivably (and almost trivially) be used to perpetrate fraud. I'd like to be able to say "no, scrabble game, you can't access my contacts data or make phonecalls - what on earth do you need to do that for?" An open security infrastructure would make me feel a whole lot more comfortable.

As a starting point to a rational response I think a sensible thing to do is to brainstorm the key questions we need to ask Nokia in order to gather the data needed to come to a conclusion.

The presentation was a great start - as was Elena's offer to continue the discussion on the mailing lists and respond to our queries and concerns (Thanks Elena).

So,I have started a Maemo Security page on the wiki which I hope can capture community questions (and, eventually I hope, Nokia's answers) about these issues.

The first questions are draft (I just landed and I'm tired!) to get people thinking. Certainly I want to re-watch Elena's presentation video several times before going much further.

I suggest we initially add questions to the  Maemo Security discussion page and  and once they've been refined and consolidated, we'll add them onto the main page.Obviously discussion needs to happen on talk, email and irc too.

I'll wrap up with a plea - please don't over-react  - jumping to conclusions and misleading the rest of the OSS community before we know the facts can only hurt what has so far been the most amazingly open phone device I could have dreamt of!

PS The Summit was brilliant!

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