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Why is it important to have signatures at the block level? Wouldn't signing an archive or binary diff be good enough?

Signing an archive would probably be good enough for many cases. Block level is a bit simpler (all or nothing) and thus less risk of mixing with unsigned parts (sideloading attacks).

For security-sensitive embedded devices (e.g. payment terminals), block level signatures would allow hardware verification during boot as well (1st stage bootloader verifies 2nd stage, then kernel, etc.) if designed correctly.

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