On the flip side… this sickens me… The next step in both hardware and software is TCPA. Read this to understand how encompassing this is. Here are exsurps for those who don’t have enough time to read.

2. What does TCPA / Palladium do, in ordinary English?

Its obvious application is to embed digital rights management (DRM) technology in the PC. The less obvious implications include making it easier for application software vendors to lock in their users.

4. How does it work?

TCPA provides for a monitoring component to be mounted in future PCs. The likely implementation in the first phase of TCPA is a `Fritz’ chip – a smartcard chip or dongle soldered to the motherboard. When you boot up your PC, Fritz takes charge. He checks that the boot ROM is as expected, executes it, measures the state of the machine; then checks the first part of the operating system, loads and executes it, checks the state of the machine; and so on. The trust boundary, of hardware and software considered to be known and verified, is steadily expanded. A table is maintained of the hardware (audio card, video card etc) and the software (O/S, drivers, etc); if there are significant changes, the machine must be re-certified. The result is a PC booted into a known state with an approved combination of hardware and software. Control is then handed over to enforcement software in the operating system

11. How can TCPA be abused?

One of the worries is censorship. An application enabled for TCPA, such as a media player or word processor, will typically have its security policy administered remotely by a server. This is so that content owners can react to new piracy techniques. However, the mechanisms might also be used for censorship.

15. So can’t TCPA be broken?

The early versions will be vulnerable to anyone with the tools and patience to crack the hardware (e.g., get clear data on the bus between the CPU and the Fritz chip). However, from phase 2, the Fritz chip will disappear inside the main processor – let’s call it the `Hexium’ – and things will get a lot harder. Really serious, well funded opponents will still be able to crack it. However, it’s likely to go on getting more difficult and expensive. Also, in many countries, cracking Fritz will be illegal. In the USA the Digital Millennium Copyright Act already does this, while in the EU the situation may vary from one country to another, depending on the way national regulations implement the EU Copyright Directive. Also, in many products, compatibility control is already being mixed quite deliberately with copyright control. The Sony Playstation’s authentication chips also contain the encryption algorithm for DVD, so that reverse engineers can be accused of circumventing a copyright protection mechanism and hounded under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The situation is likely to be messy – and that will favour large firms with big legal budgets.

Won’t this be a fun ride…