Intel has announced that support for the "old-fashioned" BIOS-based PC is going by the wayside. It is being dumped in favor of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), which seems like BIOS on steroids.
BIOS and UEFI can be thought of as middle men for the computer, making the hardware able to communicate with the OS and to smooth out operations.
The BIOS was semi-programmable in that you could upgrade it as necessary. The UEFI is programmable beyond the upgrade. This has two implications. One is abuse by hardware or software companies that want to optimize the UEFI to improve their products' performance, probably at the expense of other companies. This could easily evolve into sabotage of the competition.
There is the possibility that one modification will wreck a different modification, without malicous intent.
Which brings us to the most obvious problem—malware itself. Consider the potential for hijinks. There are numerous pieces of malware that infect today’s modern browsers, hijacking them for the purposes of posting more advertisements or tracking users to an extreme. The intelligence community must be drooling over the possibilities with the UEFI. The bad actors in the hacker community must be salivating over the possibilities. It will not be instantaneous, but within the first year some interesting cracks will appear.
I have a negative attitude about this because I was around when the first few dopey computer viruses were employed beginning around 1985. Initially they were designed as pranks and would typically erase your hard disk and send a mocking message to your console.
The computer virus went through several iterations and became generically called malware. Much of its usefulness (to hackers) now involves hijacking your computer to make it part of a "bot army" used en masse to attack targets for denial of service and other sorts of irritations. The purpose is to generally bring down sites or just harass someone or some company.
More recently we've seen malware kind of circle back with ransomware. As in the early days when the idea was to erase your hard disk, ransomware promises to permanently encrypt your disk if you do not pay someone money (typically in bitcoins) for a key. Millions of dollars have been made with this scheme.
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All along, from the 1980s until the present, computer and OS and chip companies have been trying to make machines better than ever—and more secure. Instead they've just made everything more expensive and have generally allowed things to get worse.
Why? Because a lot of the best software and slickest ideas you ever see open the machines up to vulnerabilities, and that's because people who design the coolest code had no background in security. They are not paranoid enough. They just do things because it is so cool. It’s so juvenile in many instances.
With the new UEFI, the opportunity to get fancy at a more fundamental level will be irresistible to these same programmers. Once the better tools are available you’ll begin to see some nifty programs. Then someone with the skills and the malice will come along and your life will be ruined.
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