Hackers get to the root of Sony's PlayStation 3

Has the PlayStation 3 been fatally breached? A German hacker group claims it now has the keys to Sony's console kingdom.

A moment of silence for Sony's PlayStation 3, which on Sunday was reportedly stripped of its final defenses, including the linchpin security keys used to authenticate legitimate applications--and repulse illegitimate ones.

The group of German hackers claiming credit and calling themselves fail0verflow apparently reverse-engineered the process whereby the PS3 calculates security keys employed to validate applications, says Sony Insider.

The group claims it pursued the hack to allow Linux 'Other OS' installs, a feature Sony stripped from the console last year.

Along the way, iPhone hacker George Hotz (aka Geohot) got involved, refined the hack for public use, and released it on his website, though adding that he "do[es] not condone piracy."

Of course piracy is what most users probably have in mind. The hack ostensibly means anyone can now decrypt and sign their own PS3 code, including games, operating systems, Blu-ray movies, applications, and custom ISOs. Yeah, think smorgasbord.

We can probably assume that Sony is not amused.

The PS3 was reportedly jailbroken last August by a group hoping to sell USB keys that converted systems into 'debug' units capable of playing pirated games or running homebrew code. Sony released its legal hounds, obtaining temporary injunctions against the sale of the device in countries like Australia. I'm not sure where things stand at the moment, but those USB keys were estimated to sell for upwards of $150, while the simpler and more sweeping fail0verflow hack costs nothing.

Now I haven't actually seen the fail0verflow hack in action. I haven't tested it and probably wouldn't know how to if someone passed it my way. I can't confirm it's the real deal or comment on its effectiveness, in other words.

I can, on the other hand, point you at a video of fail0verflow's presentation of the hack at the 27th Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin.

Would the hack have emerged had Sony left the 'Other OS' feature alone? Who knows. Probably. Right or wrong, good or bad, this much seems inexorable: Tell people they can't do something, and they'll try until they can.

Keep tabs on us with Twitter (@game_on)

This story, "Hackers get to the root of Sony's PlayStation 3" was originally published by PCWorld.

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