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Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking into The State of Firmware Security in Russia

I think every major industrialized country has its own policies in preventing malicious IT equipment and products to enter their premises, let alone being used within the country. In this post, we will look into one of Russian computer hardware maker, Kraftway (http://www.kraftway.ru/en/). This company might be a bit obscure to you. But, I think it serves quite a big chunk of the Russian and possibly CIS market. It was even visited by Dmitry Medvedev when he was still President.
This company is interesting for two things:
  • It is not just a "box" mover. It tailors the machines it made to meet the customer requirements. Among its in-house expertise is custom firmware, including UEFI firmware. If you look at this page: http://www.kraftway.ru/en/products-and-solutions/, at the end of it, you can see that it has in-house expertise to work on UEFI security modules and Trusted BIOS (whatever that might imply). Another thing that catches my attention is this: 
In 2010 the company signed an agreement with a telecom giant Cisco establishing a special procedure for the certification of Cisco products in Obninsk manufacturing facilities. Kraftway ensures that Cisco products comply with the requirement of the Federal Technical and Export Control Service on information security. Such certified products can be used in systems processing sensitive or confidential information. In 2012 Kraftway launched the production of Fujitsu PCs with a trusted BIOS and all-in-one PCs based on the Russian processor Elbrus.
I'm not so sure what does the statement meant by "requirements". Perhaps, it includes firmware-level compliance of some sort. You can look at the whole thing over here
  • The second thing is Kraftway also made PC based on the Russian homegrown Elbrus CPU (http://www.kraftway.ru/en/about/milestones/). Of course, in the process, it creates the firmware alongside experts from MCST. The premise for using Elbrus CPU is national security needs and "sensitive" computing needs. So, it's understandable. 
Well, I recall that Dell also did the very same thing as Kraftway with respect to firmware and hardware customization. Dell puts crypto-stuff in the firmware even before UEFI hits the market for some of its server product. Perhaps, that's not meant to be used by the masses, only certain customers.

Anyway, scrutinizing the firmware code or creating a custom ones is highly logical for "sensitive" (high-security) computing gear. Every major developed country do that. IIRC, Germany has its own Coreboot Laptop for that kind of purpose. Even China and Taiwan is doing that as well, albeit I haven't yet found writings on that.