Surely throughout your life you have played many video games and you have played games on consoles from different manufacturers. And, with complete certainty, you have ever played or even had a console modified to load games without having to go through the store. Video game piracy has had its times, although now it is being reduced by the ease of accessing huge catalogs with offers like Xbox Game Pass or the offers we see in stores like Epic and Steam. Piracy, at times, has been an attraction to sell consoles, with the developers being the ones who have ended up paying for the cake. In this post we will review the most pirated and vulnerable consoles in history.
What is actually “hacking” a console?
When we talk about a pirated console, we usually refer to those that have been modified to be able to run copies of non-original games. However, the term “pirate” already falls short todaythe term “jailbreak” being more correct.
The jailbreak It consists of bypassing the restrictions of the original firmware of the console. And done this, run unsigned code. In this way, people with programming experience can create applications for said console. Some may be related to piracyand others can simply be used to make copies of the games, take advantage of the console’s hardware to emulate games from another platform and endless uses.
What does it take to break the limits of a console?
Each console has its peculiarities. But in general, the security of a console can be compromised by hardware and by software.
The hardware vulnerabilities they cannot be patched by software. Although they can discourage you from hacking the console, since many of these vulnerabilities require activating the vulnerability using a payload (a payload that exploits the vulnerability) once every time you turn on the console. A nuisance, if you think about it carefully.
On the other hand, there are the software vulnerabilitieswhat are the more common. Programming errors that allow hackers cheat firmware and run custom code, such as a package installer. Manufacturers can patch these holes with updates, but depending on the severity of the bugs, the security of the console may be affected only superficially or completely. level rootwhich is when the user can take the full control of the device.
Is it legal to jailbreak a console?
Good question. Yes and no. With the law ahead, modify a console, your mobile phone or the firmware of the toaster in your home it is a right. However, there are limitations. The modification cannot be used for illegal purposes (ie you can’t run games you don’t own a license for). You also may not sell the mod, either through a service or by marketing a product that unlocks the security of a third-party console.
That the law protects you does not mean that Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft or the company on duty is going to clap your hands. They are going to avoid as much as possible that you make a modification of their consoles —remember that doing jailbreak these breaching its clauses—. Furthermore, they are within every right to withdraw your services such as online gambling if they detect that you have made an unauthorized modification of their products.
The fastest hacked consoles
just a few days they were necessary to push the limits of the Dreamcast, making it a failure almost from the start. The console sold, yes, but practically everyone got a bootable CD that cheated the system and allowed to load illegal roms.
The original PlayStation gave Sony quite a few headaches. Within months of its launch, the swap disks. A special disk was inserted that allowed the reader to be opened and a CD with a recorded ROM to be inserted. And the system swallowed it, of course.
At this time, it became very famous to rent a game in the video store, copy it and return it to the days. However, the most typical method of hacking the PlayStation was chips, to the point that many stores sold it already modified. Those were other times, of course.
It was also easy for hackers to break into the PlayStation 2. swap magic They were the gateway to this system. As with its predecessor, they allowed remove the disk hot and place another fooling the reader’s systems (although it required some skill). Also vendors and installers of modchips they put on their boots at the expense of Sony. Currently, the PS2 can be hacked in minutes with a simple Memory Card where a custom firmware created on another previously hacked console, which makes “mother dough” in the process.
Hackers beat Microsoft with the Xbox 360, Redmond’s second console. The console’s years of life were marked by Microsoft’s attempts to prevent illegal uploading of backups on your console, always without success. However, had it not been for this fact, the xbox 360 sales they would have been much more minority. It was a sweet treat for those unwilling to buy a PS3, and it held up like a rock for a long time.
We will never know if Nintendo would have sold 154 million Nintendo DS if it weren’t for how easy it was to sneak pirated games into the aforementioned dual screen. The biggest mistake of the Big N was not create a firmware upgradable in console.
the ds no chips or binaries needed. Nor inject payloads or anything too weird. You could load any game using flash cart (or flashcardseach one called them in a way), modified DS cards where a microSD with a custom firmware. Dozens of cards came out, and people defended the brand of their pirate card as if it were their football team. The only thing Nintendo could do was bypass the CFW of the cards by putting code in the gamesbut the community was so big that they always managed to push the limits.
PlayStation Portable (PSP)
One of the most funny that is remembered, although surely Sony did not find it so funny. The Japanese were giving the coconut to prevent your console from being hacked. Some genius in the company had the idea to put the console service mode on battery. It seemed like a seamless plan, and the truth is that the idea seemed brilliant.
The idea was that only the technical service and the developers of Sony knew this trade secret. They would place one of their special batteries and have access to the code execution in console. Unfortunately, someone discovered the method —it wasn’t the first, serious software vulnerabilities had surfaced before. To add insult to injury, they also figured out how to turn a normal battery into a ‘Pandora battery’ (if hackers are horny). And the program to unlock the console was called ‘Cemetery Awakening’. It was a golden age.
Imagine launching a game like Zelda: Twilight Princess. Sell it like churros, and that, a few months later, someone discovers a vulnerability in the game able to install code in the console.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only Wii vulnerability, which was hacked ad nauseam. While you and I will remember this console as the one we got our grandmother to play tennis with, others will remember it as having more holes than French cheese. It’s hard to know which console it is the most pirated in historybut many experts calculate that it was this, analyzing the volume of torrents that moved at that time.
After learning with Wii, Nintendo put a lot of effort into prevent your new console from being hacked. The Japanese were not at their best, because, after the hit of the family desktop console, the company began a slow and painful decline. Nintendo 3DS was very strong in its early days. Only some early firmware versions were vulnerable with flash cart. The system was otherwise robust, and Nintendo had no qualms about banning anyone who showed up with a modded console or played a game before release from their systems.
However, reaching the end of its useful life, the poor Nintendo 3DS was sneaked a new Trojan horse almost daily. Since 2015, the community managed to get into the console and bypass Nintendo by installing a copy of the NAND of 3DS inside the microSD, which was activated with a payload. It was a brilliant method to avoid getting banned: the console remained intact.
However, the process of jailbreak, which was only suitable for handy people, was simplified week by week. They managed to decrypt everything decryptable, all the private keys and managed to access root from each and every one of the corners of the poor console. There came a point where Nintendo had to throw in the towel. It was when someone discovered that any model of 3DS and New 3DS could run unsigned code using a simple magnet.
The 3DS had its small pirate audience in its early days, but even so, most of its life cycle was strong. Still, the massive reverse engineering to which it was subjected will make us remember this portable (and its sisters 2DS, New 3DS and XL versions) as fragile consoles, despite the fact that it was really only reaching the end of its days.
Nintendo took piracy seriously after Wii, the most pirated console in history. However, they made a bug in the first version of Nintendo Switch, which was quickly exploited by hackers. Although it was well hidden, the hidden debug mode on the hybrid console was discovered in a matter of no time. it was basically override a pair of pins —the Bimbo bread method, some call it with laughter— in the connection of the Joy-Con and make a set of keys to silently put the console in debugging mode.
Being the brain of the console a processor Nvidia Tegraa SoC well known to the community, the console was sold out in less than a year. The hardware vulnerability was patched on Switch V2, with a more efficient processor. Subsequently, the Japanese have managed to close a company that was dedicated to distributing modchips illegal for your console. Although the scenes of Switch is advanced, the Nintendo ecosystem is safe for the moment.