According to an article in CNET, Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman is calling for an open source effort to produce a free BIOS. Security and rights management components often use the BIOS firmware as an area to store cryptographic and related information. Some snippets:
As computer makers move to embed security features deep within the viscera of PCs, a fight is erupting over the BIOS, a rarely noticed but crucial application that controls a machine before the operating system can take over.
Despite its little-seen role, the BIOS is a vital part of a PC, and its construction and installation are closely guarded by a small number of PC makers, such as Dell, and speciality BIOS programming firms for hire.
Now, some critics are for the first time seeking to force the industry to abandon its hallmark secrecy. As the BIOS becomes more powerful, these critics argue, consumers must be allowed to freely develop their own alternatives to ensure they keep control of their devices--and that means the industry must open up.
"The one thing we have to worry about first is security. What do you think would happen if there was a virus that started reflashing PCs" BIOS software, said Mike Goldgof, senior vice president of marketing at Phoenix Technologies. "If it ever happened on a large scale, I think a lot of PCs would start turning into bricks. What people take for granted...is the reliability of the (BIOS) firmware today."
A free BIOS would also help circumvent, if necessary, digital-rights management, allowing people to run any software they choose on their PCs. In theory, the BIOS can be used to aid security technology, as it initializes hardware such as security chips.