Featured Articles

Trusted Boot (Anti-Evil-Maid, Heads, and PureBoot)
Introducing BusKill: A Kill Cord for your Laptop
WordPress Profiling with XHProf (Debugging & Optimizing Speed)
Detecting (Malicious) Unicode in GitHub PRs
Crowdfunding on Crowd Supply (Review of my experience)
Continuous Documentation: Hosting Read the Docs on GitHub Pages (2/2)
WordPress Multisite on the Darknet (Mercator .onion alias)
Hardening Guide for phpList
previous arrow
next arrow

Trusted Boot (Anti-Evil-Maid, Heads, and PureBoot)

Verifying Boot Integrity with Heads, PureBoot

This post will help to provide historical context and demystify what's under the hood of Heads, PureBoot, and other tools to provide Trusted Boot.

I will not be presenting anything new in this article; I merely hope to provide a historical timeline and a curated list of resources.


The Librem Key cryptographically verifies the system's integrity and flashes red if it's detected tampering

I've always felt bad about two things:

Because I run QubesOS, I usually disable "Secure Boot" on my laptop I travel a lot, and I don't have a good way to verify the integrity of my laptop (eg from an Evil Maid that gains physical access to my computer)

To address this, I have turned to Heads and PureBoot -- a collection of technologies including an open-source firmware/BIOS, TPM, and a USB security key that can cryptographically verify the integrity of the lowest firmware (and up the chain to the OS).

While Purism has written many articles about PureBoot and has some (minimal) documentation, I found they did a lot of hand waving without explaining how the technology works (what the hell is a "BIOS measurement"?). So I spent a great deal of
. . . → Read More: Trusted Boot (Anti-Evil-Maid, Heads, and PureBoot)

New Thumb Drive Encryption Procedure

In this article, I'll describe a procedure for preparing a brand-new USB flash drive for use. First we'll securely erase all the data on the drive, then we'll encrypt the entire drive, and--finally--we'll check the drive for bad blocks.

Ah, remember the good-ole days of spinning disks? When your OS could tell your hard *disk* to shred a specific sector? Like it or not, those days are gone in the land of USB flash volumes.

There's a lot of great reads on the complications of securely erasing data on a USB thumb drive. Unfortunately, a lot of the techniques are not universal to all technologies or manufacturers. Consequently, my approach is more ignorant, straight-forward, and broad (at the risk of causing these cheap usb drives to fail sooner & the process taking longer):

First, I make sure never to write any unencrytped data to the disk Second, when I want to wipe the disk, I fill it entirely with random data

Below are the commands that I use to prepare a new usb drive for my use immediately after purchase. These commands are presented as a rough guide; they're mostly idempotent, but you probably want to copy & paste them
. . . → Read More: New Thumb Drive Encryption Procedure