PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

Summary: Just as nature abhors a vacuum, techies seem to abhor locked systems.

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Ah, the arms race. Back during the years of the last console generation, it was relatively easy to hack the original Xbox and PS2.

It wasn't supposed to be, of course, but relatively shortly after the boxes were released, smart and enterprising individuals figured out how to do it.

Mod chips could be soldered right onto the console motherboards, allowing replacement ROMs to be run, and allowing games to be copied to and then launched from the hard drive. It was even possible to replace the console dashboard and load "trainers" -- tools designed to fiddle with certain bytes in memory to enable cheat modes.

This did not sit well with console makers and when it was time to introduce the Xbox 360 and PS3, hacking became a lot harder. First, it was technically more challenging. Second, the console makers became more aggressive, legally.

Be that as it may, just as nature abhors a vacuum, techies seem to abhor locked systems. And so, almost four short years after the release of the PS3, a mod chip was introduced to the market.

The product is/was called the PS3Jailbreak and it allowed you to backup games to your hard drive, open up the console to the use of homebrew games, and do all sorts of other activities definitely not sanctioned by Sony.

While it was later possible to hack an Xbox through an exploit, initially, the only way to mod the machine was soldering right to the Xbox's circuit board. That at least provided a barrier of entry to non-techies.

There was no such barrier of entry for the PS3Jailbreak.

Making the whole thing worse, from Sony's perspective, was that PS3Jailbreak users don't have to disassemble the console to install it. Oh, no. You just have to plug in their nice, little USB dongle.

Well, except for one thing. Sony wasn't all that thrilled about the exploit. Way. Not. Thrilled.

So they proceeded to take the makers of the PS3Jailbreak to court in Australia, where OzModChips was planning on selling the thing.

So guess what? First, last week, an Australian court banned distribution of the mod. This week, Australia made that ban permanent (PDF of court order) and demanded that all the completed mod chip product be turned over to the court.

Win for Sony, right? Well, not so much.

As it turns out, the guys who hacked the dongle decided to release the code, now called "PSGroove" as open source, to the Internet.

Now, rather than paying a hundred-plus bucks for the mod chip, intrepid script-kiddies can download the mod and hack their PS3s all on their very own.

Warning!

OK, now that I've got your attention, listen up. Do not -- do not, do not, do not -- go hunting around online for this thing.

First, at least in America, you'd probably be violating the DMCA. But far more to the point, this event is going to be like catnip for malware providers.

Sites offering this code are likely to be absolutely infested with badness and even the code itself, especially if compiled into some sort of installer, is likely to carry all sorts of nasty payloads.

You were warned.

Did you ever hack any of your consoles? Tell us about it below. Speaking for myself, I never hacked my Xbox, I never owned a copy of MechWarrior, I never ran Avalaunch or EvolutionX, I never cheated at an Xbox game using a trainer, and I never, ever installed XBMC. Never!

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Mobility

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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34 comments
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  • Modding is Fun!

    In answer to your question, I have a modded Wii and XBOX360. The Wii is primarily so I can have an external hard drive hooked up with my various games in ISO format. I don't have to worry about the games getting scratched and I can switch without getting my lazy butt off the couch. It's also a ton of fun to be able to play ROMs of the classic NES and SNES games from my youth on a giant (compared to my 13" set in 1991) TV.
    coprenicuz
  • Why bother?

    I've owned consoles since the first Nintendo and I've never had the urge to mod my system. The beauty and the point of a console is that because it's a closed system, I can buy a game, put it in and play. No troubleshooting the sound or video card. No upgrading the ram or adjusting the frame rate. It just works. As far as "backing up" a game? I don't care. They're not that expensive and I have a job. Uncharted 2 kills itself, I saunter down to the local Gamestop and get a replacement for about $20. All of the time I don't spend modding frees me up for other things, like going outside and talking to the opposite sex.
    chriswilkins@...
    • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

      @chriswilkins@... <br>$60 dollars is 'not expensive'? You must be making over 200K a year then, because for the AVERAGE PERSON, that is damned expensive and they want to protect their investment.<br><br>As to the DMCA thing.... I don't give a flying **** what the DMCA says! They can shove that poor piece of law up their butt for all I care.

      I also have to say, as to the court order, that the court in Australia got it totally wrong. Modding in Australia is NOT illegal in the slightest, neither are mod chips, so the court misses the bus and dropped off the cliff with this order.

      Expect, if there is a appeal, a reversal!
      Lerianis10
    • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

      @chriswilkins@...

      Add in that the optical drive consumes twice as much power and emits something like three times as much heat. Oh, look, your Xbox is giving you the redeye of death. Just works my *ss! Not enough space to download patch!? My bad, I paid all this money for Live, and I forgot there isn't enough storage to USE it!

      Who gave you your job that you so cavalierly waste money? They should can you. I guess indiscriminately spending money on people causes them to indiscriminately spend money.
      tkejlboom
  • Malware sites are no problem for dedicated hackers

    Most of the under-society surf using sandboxed VMs these days. Clone one, pick up all the crap you want (including virii) then blow it away at the end of the day. It takes minimal effort to set up. Alternatively they use Linux systems, BSD or other non-Windows platforms to avoid the mostly MS-centric infections.

    Modding seems like a high-effort low-reward activity, but where it really pays off is in high-density groups. College dorms, lan parties and gamer groups can capitalize on one person's efforts and 1 rented game to keep 20 or 30 people well supplied with freebies. That's the blessing and the curse of intangible goods.
    terry flores
  • DMCA?

    Seriously? The DMCA? With the copyright office allowing the average user to "jailbreak" their own personally purchased iphone without legally getting in trouble, there would be next to NO legal problems for individuals who own their own PS3 and decide to "jailbreak" it. They own the device and they can modify it to their hearts content. That does not mean that Sony can honor warranties but it does give precedent in the fact that people when they own their own technology purchased from a manufacturer that they CAN in fact modify their own hardware without fear of legal intervention. Now if they choose to distribute it, that's another legal question. BUT it does not prohibit people from modifying their own hardware. The DMCA has no effect.
    tharmon77
    • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

      @tharmon77

      Not 'can honor', it's 'has to honor'. And no, if you PHYSICALLY modify your console (but wait a minute.... with this thing, you are not physically modifying so it would NOT cause harm that would not be covered by a warranty), they don't have to honor the warranty.

      The DMCA supposedly has effect here because people are going to use this to get around the DRM on discs and play backed up games.... but wait? LEGAL UNDER FAIR USE!

      So the DMCA flies out the window there.
      Lerianis10
    • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

      Even modifications can't be used as a blanket excuse for voiding warranties. The car companies tried that decades ago, to get people to buy overpriced "name-brand" replacement parts. The result was the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which says that the manufacturer has to prove that your mod caused the problem for which you're seeking warranty service.
      dgurney
  • Modding is the ONLY way to fly with some systems...

    I've done the full boat of mods on a Playstation 2. Why?

    1. I can play ANY video/music CD/DVD in the world as the modchip unlocks the region restriction.

    2. Likewise can play any PS2 game in the world for the same reasons. Not everything ever released for that console has made it over to the U.S., and there are some interesting import games out there.

    3. Running games off of the hard drive allows for much faster load times and saves wear and tear on the optical drive. Not only that, but with a 160GB hard drive in that system, you effectively get space for an infinite amount of saves. No need to go out and get those expensive memory cards anymore which individually will probably cost more than a used hard drive! LOL!

    4. Homebrew applications and development. Once chipped, it's possible to run an earlier distro of Linux off of a PS2, effectively turning it into a PC. Granted that the power of most consoles are not very much by today's standards, but it still opens possibilities.

    5. Because I can. 'Nuff said!

    There are other useful features too, but those are the main reasons I decided to go ahead and mod my system.

    And FYI... I have NEVER felt the need to pirate games for that system. Why? Because used games for the PS2 are so damn cheap right now. I mean when you can get used games in good shape for $5 complete with case and manual, what's the point?
    Reindeer911
  • Screw it.

    Well, I would be much rather willing to buy a 2TB 3.5 SATA HDD (external) or 500GB 2.5 SATA (internal) and DL tons of ISO PS3 games. Plenty easy, vastly shorter load-times, all over win really.
    Z3R0D4Y
  • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

    If you can't open it, you don't own it.
    Love the "Streisand Effect"
    malcolmgandrews@...
  • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

    the point of consoles is online multiplayer. i dont see any mod worth being banned from XBox Live of PSN. Sony hasnt banned people before for glitches, but i dont see how theyll let this slide. overall, if you just want to play games and dont really care about being banned, mod away. otherwise, i wouldnt bother with it. do people not have friends they can borrow games from? i didnt pirate GoW 3, but i didnt buy it either.
    truthiness79
    • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

      @truthiness79
      That is the point of YOUR consoles - not mine. I have almost every console made and have logged in less than 30 minutes of online multiplayer during my entire 20+ years of playing games and massive library (it's like a freakin' Gamestop ova here!). There are a large number of gamers playing multiplayer, but to say that it is the majority of players is just sucking up to the hype machine - check the statistics, the offline players (singleplayers) vastly outnumber online players (REGULAR online players, not dabblers and people who try it once or twice). That is the catalyst behind hacking consoles - they don't care about the online part, they just want to plat the singleplayer games, and unlock regions to play games they couldn't previously.

      Multiplayer fanboys are an arrogant and ignorant bunch - with less than 15% market penetration, they go about acting as if they are the only market. Jeez!
      magusat999@...
      • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

        @magusat999@...

        Not really. I have played a lot of online multiplayer stuff and online single player stuff. According to the gaming magazines themselves, yeah, online multiplayer is a big part of what people buy a console for.
        Lerianis10
  • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

    Sony is totally boned in the best way. People are porting the exploit to be usable from TI-84 Plus Calculators, PSPs, Nokia N900 phones, and a whole long list of other devices capable of controlling the USB functions properly. Just because a simple USB stick is insufficient doesn't mean that the exploit is at all difficult to use (and their are detailed instructions complete with Youtube videos for the totally ignorant). Not to mention, for those who can't wait for the real hackers to do the work there are precompiled packages (along with the source code) that are all ready with the pirating functions re-enabled (and people are already working to expand the functionality to PS2, PSX, DVD, and Blu-Ray disc images) that just need to be flashed on to the USB micro boards. People have already been successful n re-enabling Other OS. Even the fear that it was going to be easily detectable seems to be disappearing, as there is a new version of the backup utility that identifies itself as Modern Warfare 2 instead of the ripped Game ID from the leaked SDK. I'm also fairly sure it's possible to use this to re-enable PS2 software emulation.

    Suck it Sony. You deserve what you got and then some; It was only a matter of time before people began taking back all the features you took away to protect your bottom line, and giving us a few more just to say "screw you." And to all the "Lawful Good" copyright zealots, keep your smug attitudes on your oh so high horses; you are the only ones that will get hurt in this process. Anything can be hacked given enough time and resources (which this conclusively proves, given that the Cell processors the PS3 sports can output a formidable amount of GFLOPS in a cluster), and only a technologically ignorant person would think otherwise. We will adapt, you will eventually be too alienated to buy more products facing an ever more adversarial corporation bent on "protecting its product," and inevitably Sony's business will crumble to the ground and there will be no more system. Consider pirates (myself included, and proudly so) akin to cockroaches - despite the mutually assured destruction of the legitimate consumer base and the product vendor, we will live on. There is no point in even attempting to stop us. We are the pirates. We have assessed that your defenses are not capable of withstanding us. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
    Dyndrilliac
    • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

      @Dyndrilliac
      Deep breaths, man. Just take deep breaths
      guest87
      • guest87 Are you a pregnant woman? Sounds like it! haha..

        @guest87 Dyndrilliac is prime example of what turned this nation of rebels into FREEDOM FIGHTERS! ....they abhor absolute tyranny of governments over their rights as citizens. Who lawfully purchase products to do with as they will. When a non-entity corporation sicks your own government on you and succeeds, it's time for REVOLUTION! This country is a majority rules by votes not DOLLARS spent by corporations grafting our political systems to their greedy desires.

        I suppose you are one of those that believes it should be illegal to modify your car in any way whatsoever. Change paint, seat covers, modify the engine and people should go to jail for life. Yeah.... it's idiots like you that sit at the beck and call of these monstrously over zealous corporate greed machines!
        i2fun@...
      • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

        @i2fun

        Who are you talking to? Is that really for guest87. If so, how do you draw a conclusion about "idiots like" him?
        PlayFair
  • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

    hm... would this make it possible to load windows on a ps3? that way you could have ps3 games, windows live games, keyboard/mouse/xbox controller/ps3 inputs, and anything else you can think of all on a tiny little super computer.
    guest87
    • RE: PlayStation 3 hack banned by court, but not before released into the wild

      @guest87<br>The PS3 runs off of an IBM Cell processor which is based on the PowerPC processor architecture. This is incompatible with Windows, as it requires an Intel 80X86 compatible architecture. This is also why the Cell failed as an enterprise product, and why we no longer see it in other devices despite its excellent performance for its age.
      Dyndrilliac