PS3 Jailbreak: Modders Defend Hack
It took hackers little more than a year to crack the original PlayStation. By the time the PS2 came about it took about a year and a half to unlock the new console to piracy. The PSP didn’t take very long at all. But the PS3 was meant to be different – Sony worked alongside hackers to make sure what they were offering would appeal to that particular demographic, while at the same time giving your more standard gamers a console that wasn’t very easy to hack.
It was all working fine until a few months ago – reports linking certain hacking activities to the PS3’s ability to run Linux allegedly led to Sony removing the OtherOS feature from consoles. Then, suddenly, a USB hack – the PS Jailbreak – was released on an unsuspecting world. The PS3 hasn’t just been compromised: it’s been torn apart.
But where did this come from? How did it come about? What is it that drives hackers to reverse engineer technology, to push the limits of what their consoles can actually do? According to the owner of OzModChips, one of the main retailers of PS Jailbreak, this isn’t about piracy – it’s about unlocking a console’s potential. “The fact that we have a homebrew-enabled console without opening it up is massive. It will take a while for all the good stuff to filter through, but it will be great to see which areas [of the PS3 hardware] are accessible.”
He went on, “It’s the media’s narrow-minded view that modchips/hacking = piracy. This is not the case. It’s all about getting more out of your console. If unlocking homebrew on your console is piracy then you can say the same thing about jailbreaking an iPhone, which is now legal in the US.” It’s an understandable point, and it is clear that a lot of the media immediately associate homebrew with more unsavoury elements. But that’s because a hack is necessary to enable homebrew in most cases, and hacks mainly allow pirated, backed-up versions of games to be played. It’s not too hard to see where this perceived link comes from.
As for jailbreaking being legal in the US – this is true, but the PS Jailbreak isn’t the same thing as on iPhone. It isn’t a software hack – it’s hardware and software engineered specifically to circumvent copy protection, therefore allowing copies to be played. It’s not as innocent as the Apple hack, so it’s not exactly a fair comparison to be made – in fact, it’s safe to say the similarities end at the name.
Mathieu Hervais, a software coder and hacker involved in custom firmwares on the PSP and the creation of the Pandora battery hack, holds similar opinions to those of the Australian, “Well the exploit used by the PS Jailbreak is a clever one, I just find it too bad that they mostly did it for money and prioritised backups to actual homebrew. The device does, however, allow homebrew to be executed in the form of fself (binaries compiled with the official PlayStation 3 SDK) which will likely be a great improvement for the homebrew community.”
Hervais continued, “You should also note that the PS Jailbreak dongle can easily be cloned, which means the homebrew community can take advantage of it and create their own dongles that do the patches they see fit. This will lead users and homebrewers to enjoy their PlayStation 3 console to the fullest of their potentials and will allow applications that have not necessarily been endorsed by Sony to run on the PlayStation 3 platform without the need of acquiring expensive development hardware.”
At the time of writing we’re still waiting on Sony’s response to the jailbreak, though they have recently taken out an injunction preventing the device from being sold in Australia. Unfortunately, because of deadlines we were unable to include here the outcome of the case, which our contact at OzModChips was present at.
It’s clear Sony isn’t just going to let this slide, and will do everything in its power to crush the jailbreak – be that through firmware updates or whatever else. The arguments on the side of the hackers and homebrewers do make some sense, but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing Sony will want to listen to and it’s pretty easy to understand why.
We’ll give the last word to Hervais, though, “It's really a shame that despite the fact console manufacturers use military grade security on their devices which they spend literally millions of dollars to design, that security always ends up broken at one point or another because they can't make compromises with console hackers or homebrewers. Considering the number of those, the latter are more likely to always end up winning.”
(Sony was unavailable for comment on the jailbreak, with the only quotes released to the press being along the lines of “no comment”.)