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

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, techies seem to abhor locked systems.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

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.


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!

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