Hackers are not ones to back away from a fight, or a task that seems at first glance to be nigh impossible. And after 4+ years of being hailed as an unbreakable system, the PS3 has finally gone the way of every console and gaming system before it, and been cracked open for the world to see.
Think You’ve Heard This One Before?
Yes, it wasn’t that long ago that hackers were also claiming victory over the PS3, as they attacked it via its own USB ports, using a program that would trick the system into thinking it was a development system, and you, a developer, giving you free reign over the use of the system and the ability to play backup discs. Of course, Sony had a quick answer to this, releasing a firmware update that slammed the door shut on this program. While a user could simply avoid downloading this firmware update by not going online, they would never be able to play games online and receive any other useful system updates as a result.
The Ball is in Sony’s Court
While Sony’s response to the last hacking attempt was an easy one, the hackers this time say they’ve bypassed the PS3’s security in such a way that will make it impossible for Sony to do anything about it. They claim no possible firmware update can stop what they’ve unleashed, nor can the hacked systems even be detected and banned from playing online.
Sony’s first official statement regarding this matter was released today:
"We are aware of this, and are currently looking into it,” Sony said in a statement given to Edge Magazine. “We will fix the issues through network updates, but because this is a security issue, we are not able to provide you with any more details.”
While Sony’s statement indicates confidence that they can fix the breach with a firmware update, the hackers were quite adamant that the war was over, and that while Sony may have won a series of battles up to this point, they have now lost the war.
"The complete console is compromised - there is no recovery from this" pytey, a member of the hacker group fail0verflow told BBC News."The only way to fix this is to issue new hardware," he continued. "Sony will have to accept this."
Of Cryptography and Signatures
Ultimately, the hackers admitted that it was a cryptographic error on Sony’s part that led to their hacking of the system, otherwise it may very well have remained uncracked for the foreseeable future. This error allowed the hackers to compute the private key that the PS3 uses to sign and validate firmware updates.
With this key released, other hackers are now free to create their own firmware updates and programs that the PS3 will now recognize as legitimate, allowing any manner of homebrew programs to be run on the system, most notably programs that will allow the playing of backup games.
This not only creates obvious issues as far as gamers playing burned games, but it creates the potential for severe cheating online. Gamers will now be able to run programs that will let them do just about anything in online games without anything to stop them. This does, unfortunately, have the potential to ruin online gaming on the PlayStation 3.
Now you may be thinking, can’t Sony just change the private key with a firmware update? While this would probably be possible, this just isn’t an option, as every current game and product on the market that requires the use of that key to run would then be unusable.
Could This Mean the PS4 Comes Out Sooner Than Later Now?
It’s quite possible that if Sony indeed can’t fix this security issue, that we may see the PS4 sooner as a result. As Sony makes the majority of their money through software sales (in fact they were selling PS3’s at a loss for quite awhile), a sharp decrease in sales would greatly outweigh any benefit to be had from increased hardware sales.
Still, there are other things to consider that may not make the issue quite as severe as it seems on the surface. For one, burning PS3 games requires a Blu-ray burner, which most people don’t possess, and which are by no means cheap. Next, PS3 games are quite large in size, meaning massive hits on bandwidth usage (which is capped for most people in North America and Europe) from burning just one or two games. The Blu-ray discs themselves are also fairly expensive (though cheaper than actually buying the game certainly).
More to Come
We’ll be following developments on this issue closely in the days and weeks to come, so check back for all the latest updates.
Let us know your thoughts on this below. Are you glad the PS3 is cracked? Can Sony fix it? Will this ruin the PS3, and might we see the PS4 sooner as a result? We want your opinions on this major story below.