Microsoft hit with competition complaint over Windows 8 UEFI Secure Boot

Microsoft hit with competition complaint over Windows 8 UEFI Secure Boot

Summary: Spanish Linux group Hispalinux has filed a competition complaint with the European Commission over the implementation of UEFI Secure Boot for Windows 8.


A Spanish Linux software group has filed a complaint against Microsoft to the European Commission over its controversial implementation of UEFI Secure Boot for Windows 8 hardware.

The Linux group Hispalinux filed a complaint with the Madrid office of the European Commission on Tuesday morning, according to Reuters.

The complaint focuses on the Microsoft's Windows 8 "certified PC" feature UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) Secure Boot, which the group has labelled an "obstruction mechanism".

Concerns about UEFI Secure Boot for Windows 8 were raised in 2011 after Linux users questioned whether the feature would prevent dual-booting with Linux on Windows 8 machines.

At the time, Red Hat employee Matthew Garrett commented on his blog that Microsoft's move on secure boot "removes control from the end user and places it in the hands of Microsoft and the hardware vendors. The truth is that it makes it more difficult to run anything other than Windows".

More recently Linux community members have been hashing out the optimal methods to install Linux on Windows 8 PCs with Secure Boot.

Linux founder Linus Torvalds labelled suggestions that inserting Microsoft-signed keys into the Linux kernel to achieve this was "moronic". Besides security threats, one fear is that Microsoft could arbitrarily disable the key, rendering the Linux-installed Windows 8 PC useless.

Hispalinux's complaint to the EU covers much of the same territory. 

Hispalinux lawyer Jose Maria Lancho told Reuters that UEFI Secure Boot was a "de facto technological jail for computer booting systems" and that the feature was "absolutely anti-competitive".

In a blog post, Hispalinux points to what it considers potential breaches of Europe's antitrust laws and consumer laws.

Windows 8 obstructs competition by preventing any rival operating system to boot directly on the hardware, while the choice of the system on the hardware reflected an agreement between hardware manufacturers and Microsoft, not the consumer, it says.

According to Hispalinux, the agreements between Microsoft and hardware makers were prohibited under the European Union's Treaty Article 81.1 and 82, dealing with competition law, and several articles covering European consumer laws.

The European Commission is obliged to investigate any complaint it receives, and take action of any anti-competitive behaviour is found.

A spokesperson for European Union's Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia declined to comment on the complaint, however in January this year, the commissioner addressed questions from Swedish Pirate Party MEP Ameilia Andersdotter over whether Microsoft's UEFI Security Boot did violate European competition law. 

Almunia said the Commission was aware of the Microsoft Windows 8 security requirements, but did not have any evidence suggesting they would lead to practices that violate Europe's competition laws. 

"Whether there is a violation of EU competition rules depends however on a range of factual, legal and economic considerations. The Commission is currently not in possession of evidence suggesting that the Windows 8 security requirements would result in practices in violation of EU competition rules as laid down in Articles 101 and 102 TFEU. In particular, on the basis of the information currently available to the Commission it appears that the OEMs can decide to give the end users the option to disable the UEFI secure boot."

"The Commission will however continue to monitor the market developments so as to ensure that competition and a level playing field are preserved amongst all market players."

ZDNet has not received a response from Microsoft.

Topics: Linux, Microsoft, Security, EU, Windows 8

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Microsoft hit with competition complaint over Windows 8 UEFI Secure Boot

    Another linux group making fools of themselves. Linux users have to be the biggest bunch of whiners I've ever seen. The EU is going to laugh them right out of their office and tell them to go compile something since there is no basis for this complaint.

    I don't know why linux does not want to be secure. First they leave the telnet port open now they don't want UEFI protection. I have all the more reason to stay with Microsoft Windows 8 now because of such technologies making it secure.
    • So funny

      “Life is tough and it is even tougher if you are stupid" -John Wayne
      • Loverock-Davidson So your saying the Windows posters here are above

        reproch and That everything that they say is 100% correct?

        They don't spread made up fabrication and purposelessly spew out of context statements against anything to do with Linux, come on.

        I find a great many pro Microsoft posters here on Zdnet to be smug and to be totally arrogant that their opinion is the only one.

        My Opinion
        Over and Out
        • And your not?

          Ha ha, thanks for the laugh!
          Pot meet kettle! lol
          • You're vs your

            Apparently you don't know the difference.
        • Yes, he IS saying that!

          Most pro-MS posters on here have apparently convinced themselves that their opinion is somehow FACT and that therefore anyone who does not agree must be, ipso facto, wrong.

          Of course, if Windows were so perfect as they would like to believe, then nobody would BOTHER to load Linux, or anything else. Microsoft, by trying to impede other options, is admitting that is second-rate, and has to cheat to win. Sigh.
          • rahbm, what happened to the win8 is not selling propaganda?

            First we get blog after blog about how win8 on the desktop is going nowhwere and not selling. Now we are back to MSFT implementing this feature purely to put Linux out of the picture.
            Maybe it's for security and that companies have the right to create what they want? Why does Linux feel it has a right to ride on what people are buying as Windows machines? Some load linux for this or that, but the number that do it to replace Windows is very small. I think they all post here on zdnet.
            And the comment about Pro-windows people being smug? Huh? We have Apple fanatics making actual death threats over the years and being so defensive of their platforms that it's become a joke in the mainstream (jokes on late night TV for example and comedians using it in their bits).
            Linux users here on zdnet and everywhere have historically often been zealots. I'm not making accusations or being self righteous but going by what I see around me.
            There have been dozens of bloggers who admittedly hate windows that blog for ZDNet over the years. There have been hundreds of talkbackers that talk about MSFT with pure hatred and wanting them to "die" and this is all backed up by the zealotry shown by the Linix backed websites setup to try and stop Windows over the years. The "Kill Vista" websites were out in full force. I'm not sure and have not looked but would bet there are Linux backed anti Win8 sites.
            What windows users go to this kind of trouble I must ask? Really 99% of windows users are not computer techs, like the linux world so therefore never even visit zdnet.
            I just think its' almost funny that Windows backers are being labeled by people from the same cloth that have fought to bting down MSFT for years with hate filled rants and attempts to discredit everything MSFT has ever done.
            Most windows users will acknowledge the strengths of OS X and Linux but their preference for Windows. That's about as crazy as they get.
          • if Windows isn't perfect...

            Why not buy an expensive mackinto$h to fool around with instead or better still something iO$ based?
            Kevin Morley
          • Macs are not expensive...

            if you compare like hardware for like hardware (I not only mean specs, but the quality of the hardware as well) and the included software on a Mac.
          • Back with this tripe are we?????????????????????????

            You gotta get a life man.

            Im not against Apple, I own some Apple gear and I support that, but seriously, the old "Macs are not costly" argument was lost and lost and lost and lost and lost and lost over and over again years ago.

            If your going to insist on that garbage soon you will have idiot Windows lovers claiming Windows is invulnerable.

            Windows is about as invulnerable as Macs are inexpensive.

            Make some effort to get real.

            Try it, it dosnt hurt that bad.
        • I'm glad to see this happen

          Let's hope this is the first in a long line of lawsuits.

          M$ does not own my hardware or my BIOS. I do.
          • CaviarGreen: "M$ does not own my hardware or my BIOS"

            1. You can choose to turn off secure boot for a Windows 8-based PC via a setting in the BIOS. This has been widely discussed.

            2. You can choose to convert the Windows 8-based PC's disk from GPT to MBR using built-in Windows 8 utilities, either the Disk Management Utility ( a GUI tool) or the diskpart command and the CLI. This hasn't been widely discussed and it will result in a Windows 8-based PC with both a Legacy BIOS and an MBR disk.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Rabid Howler Monkey

            "1. You can choose to turn off secure boot for a Windows 8-based PC via a setting in the BIOS. This has been widely discussed."

            Only if that BIOS setting is made available and there's no guarantee of that.

            "2. You can choose to convert the Windows 8-based PC's disk from GPT to MBR using built-in Windows 8 utilities, either the Disk Management Utility ( a GUI tool) or the diskpart command and the CLI. This hasn't been widely discussed and it will result in a Windows 8-based PC with both a Legacy BIOS and an MBR disk."

            But I shouldn't have to use any Windoze based utilities in order to do this. They shouldn't control the keys. The user should. Once again, M$ does not own my hardware or my BIOS. I do.

            Let the lawsuits begin!

          • "there's no guarantee of that" unless the PC is Windows 8 certified

            One of the requirements for Windows 8 logo certification is the ability to disable SecureBoot, so it actually is guaranteed on machines with logo ceritification - BECAUSE MICROSOFT REQUIRES IT!!

            And you don't have to use Microsoft keys. Just write your own and convince the OEM to make the required changes to UEFI to work with your keys - the same process Microsoft has already gone through. You own your hardware and your BIOS, quit whining and and make it work.

            There's no guarantee that will happen. Why should anybody take their word over this over anything. Based on their past history, they are not to be trusted anyway.

            And as far as writing your own keys and trying to convince the OEMs to use them, what kind of stupid answer is that? It shouldn't even have to get to that stage since M$ doesn't own my BIOS and doesn't own my hardware. In principle, why should the Linux community kiss MS ass in order to get around this.

            This is why I welcome the lawsuits. This is why their control over my hardware needs to be kept in check. Did they really think they were going to get away with this without being sued?
          • We've already seen a number of Windows 8 computers ...

            ...that fail to implement the "off" feature for secure boot.

            One manufacturer's laptops even bricked when loading another OS demo!
          • Microsoft is not to blame for that

            If a computer manufacturer messes up their BIOS so it malfunctions when you try to install some non-Microsoft OS that is solely the fault of the manufacturer.
            Jeremy Barker
          • Except that this is precisely what was predicted

            and what MS fostered (originally, they weren't even allowing the Secure Boot feature to be user-disabled, let alone user-controlled).

            MS made it very clear what was important to them -- and what wasn't so terribly important;

            So... have any OEMs lost their Windows 8 Hardware Certification, Logo qualification and MS "co-marketing support" for their failure to properly implement the user-accessible Secure Boot disable-switch or the Secure Boot user-controlled Key-management features?
          • Choice

            No one is forcing you to buy a machine with Win8.
          • Wanna bet?

            The next time you buy a new PC, what do you think will be firmly planted on there.