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Trusted Computing

Once your Operating System is up and running, the Fritz-chip will then check each and every application before it loads so if your license for Adobe Photoshop has expired its game over until you get in touch with Adobe and confess your sins.

Look here and you’ll see that the main players in TCG are AMD, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Sun but there are dozens of other companies on the Contributor list including AMI, ATI, Broadcom, Dell, Hitachi, Marvell, Maxtor, nVidia, ULi, Samsung, Seagate and Winbond. The only name that seems to be missing is Western Digital, and regardless of what you and I may think about Trusted Computing we’re going to be passengers with that little lot driving the thing forward.

Naturally Microsoft is fully behind Trusted Computing as it says here. “Windows Vista supports full-volume encryption to prevent disk access to files by other operating systems. It also stores encryption keys in a Trusted Platform Model (TPM) v1.2 chip. The entire system partition is encrypted - both the hibernation file and the user data. It also stores encryption keys in a Trusted Platform Model (TPM) v1.2 chip, if one is available on the PC.”

The TPM v1.2 chip that it refers to is likely to be an Infineon SLD 9635 TPM/TCPA chip, and if you study your motherboard carefully you may find an older Infineon SLD 9630 TPM v1.1 chip is lurking there, unused. Although TPM hasn’t yet arrived the first steps have certainly been made so it comes as something of a surprise to find that Microsoft has cut back dramatically on its plans for the implementation of Next Generation Secure Computing Base in Windows Vista. The original plan was to enhance security by providing Secure Start-up which has been described as protection for your hard drive in the event of theft, which should be of keen interest to the owners of laptops. Once the computer has started, each application would be separated from the Operating System and from other applications by software called a nexus. Microsoft has put this idea to one side in a bid to get Vista released by the end of 2006 and has instead implemented a system of secure compartments. There’s one compartment for Windows itself, another for applications and another for administration.

More significantly, the ‘Vista Ready PC’ hardware guidelines make no mention of the TPM, so while it is quite possible that Vista will support certain Trusted Computing features, it seems unlikely that software publishers will be able to include a TPM as a system requirement. You’d have to think that many members of the Trusted Computing Group would have loved to see Vista fully support TPM but Microsoft is also a loser here as it wants the protection of TPM as much as anyone, but Secure Start-up is better than nothing.

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