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Experimenting with TCPA/TCG Hardware, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bear
John Marchesini, Sean W. Smith, Omen Wild, Rich MacDonald
Dartmouth TR2003-476

Abstract: Over the last few years, our group has been working on applications of secure coprocessors---but has been frustrated by the limited computational environment and high expense of such devices. Over the last few years, the TCPA (now TCG) has produced a specification for a trusted platform module (TPM)---a small hardware addition intended to improve the overall security of a larger machine (and tied up with a still-murky vision of Windows-based trusted computing). Some commodity desktops now come up with these TPMs.

Consequently, we began an experiment to see if (in the absence of a Non-Disclosure Agreement) we could use this hardware to transform a desktop Linux machine into a virtual secure coprocessor: more powerful but less secure than higher-end devices. This experiment has several purposes: to provide a new platform for secure coprocessor applications, to see how well the TCPA/TCG approach works, and (by working in open source) to provide a platform for the broader community to experiment with alternative architectures in the contentious area of trusted computing.

This paper reports what we have learned so far: the approach is feasible, but effective deployment requires a more thorough look at OS security.

Note: This report, TR2003-476, supersedes TR2003-471 of August 2003. Furthermore, the December 15, 2003 version of TR2003476 fixes typos found in the December 4, 2003 version.


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   John Marchesini, Sean W. Smith, Omen Wild, and Rich MacDonald, "Experimenting with TCPA/TCG Hardware, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bear." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report TR2003-476, December 2003.

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