PS3 system hacked; Backups, homebrew and emulation now possible

By Christian Ericssen
September 30, 2010

Before PS3 Jailbreak made its way on to the scene, famed iPhone hacker geohot or George Hotz in January 2010 announced that he had hacked the system through the console's OtherOS system. Following rumours and attempted usage of this exploit, Sony responded with a firmware update which effective closed off access to the OtherOS Linux system. The future of accessing the powerful Cell hardware, revered by some as a supercomputer, seemed unreachable.

In a surprising turn of events last month, Sony's Playstation 3 (PS3) console was effectively hacked through an exploit in its booting process. With the weeks following, a slew of Internet tutorials have bombarded PS3 communities across the Internet showing users how to take advantage of this exploit with Sony's 3.41 firmware. Since the security issue was cleared up in haste, nobody has figured out how to take advantage of running homebrew applications on newer firmware such as 3.42 or 3.5, both released within the past month.

It all started when a product known as PS3 Jailbreak made its way on to the market. As a first of its kind, the break out into the market made the product expensive, retailing anywhere from C$100 - C$200 from various online retailers across the world until a US district court judge made its ruling, banning the product from further distribution. Before the court stopped PS3 Jailbreak in its tracks, it was made open source, feeding the frenzy of users interested in exploring their powerful piece of hardware and perhaps even enabling piracy.

Following the ban of PS3 Jailbreak, several Playstation hacking communities from Los Angeles to Barcelona went to work taking the now open source project and modifying it to do things, which over one month ago were unimaginable for gamers across the world. Since then variants such as PSGroove have spread the Internet like wildfire enabling game backups, file managers, ftp servers and perhaps the most surprising, supposed development of custom firmware. Whether or not custom firmwares will turn the PS3 into an exclusive offline gaming experience has yet to be proven, but if Microsoft's Xbox system serves as an example, that's exactly what hacking your PS3 will turn your $400 gaming system into.

Hardware

If you're looking at getting into the market of modifying your Sony console, it's not difficult. Many popular products have been modified to allow the delivery of a payload to your console, or custom software. As of today, iPods, iPhones, Android phones, USB development boards and MP3 players have been configured to do the trick. Here's a short list:

  • Blackcat USB Boards
  • HTC Phones running Android
  • Nokia N900 and N810 cell phones
  • Older iPhone models and iPod Touch models
  • USB dev boards with Atmel chips
  • USB dev boards with ATMega chips
  • Texas Intruments TI-84 calculators

Atmel-based USB boards seem to currently be the most popular way of getting into the system, with hexadecimal or hex files complete with the compiled code available for download across the Internet, simply flashed to the board with free software known as Flip 3.4.2. Hex files are readily available with a simple Google search.

Authentic USB development boards produced by Atmel seem to be sold out at various outlets across the world, so many cheaper clone products 100% compatible are currently the only way to go for many. Do expect the price for these cheaper quality clones to come down in price and avoid ebay sellers from parts of Asia and as always, avoid purchasing anything from West Africa.

PSP Port no more

The development of a modified PSP hacking the PS3 seemed promising at the beginning, but in the end the team of Spanish hackers called it quits on the project. What could be more embarassing for Sony than to have their console's little brother assist in breaking into it? With the team conceding defeat, citing the hack as unfeasible, Sony can breath a sigh of relief.

It's not the end though, because while nobody has publically stepped up to the plate to continue development we're confident that the growing community of hackers and wannabes might just make it a priority to upset Sony's current legal battles against web sites, distributors and individual forum members advocating freedom for the console.

Homebrew

You can view a list of the Playstation Homebrew downloads here.

As mentioned earlier, development of custom software for the console is developing rapidly with new programs coming out each day. The most promising at the moment is the Super Nintendo emulator which allows you to play your favourite 16-bit games from an era long past. Here's a brief list on currently available homebrew we've put together:


And finally for those interested in a more graphical run down of how this works, please refer to the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSS0gXQFB10