Past Rants, Raves & Views

Right between the Cells

The PS3 - yes, I am an owner - has had its little pants pulled down. No longer can Sony boast proudly of having the only inviolable console on the market. George Hotz - hacker alias Geohot - has seen to that. If you're a hacker or technowhiz and you want to read it straight from the horse's mouth, here you go. If you're not and you don't, I'll do my best to break it down for you.

First up, Hotz is not a hacker in the crappy 90s movie sense. He claims he's doing everything for research purposes, as this little excerpt makes clear.

"If you have a slim and are complaining this hack won't work for you, stop reading now. WE DO NOT CONDONE PIRACY, NOR WILL WE EVER. If you are looking for piracy, stop reading now."

Hotz claims to have access to the Hypervisor, which is low-level code designed to monitor the operating system and run the PS3's hardware. If this is true, there's really no way round this for Sony (or, indeed, Microsoft, who use something almost identical to manage the XBox 360s security) short of changing the hardware. He can stop the basic code from trying to run calls, effectively turning off all the box's internal security. He can create his own calls and get the code to run them. Memory access and rewrite is pretty much sewn up.

The hack, as Hotz himself admits, is not complete. And bad news for those of you hoping for pirated copies of MAG to start turning up on torrents this week: that may well remain impossible. Hotz has the Cell processor more or less where he wants it, but the Blu-Ray drive is another matter. While X-Box has always had security issues due to unencrypted firmware on their last-gen DVD drives, we're told that PS3's Blu-Ray can have its security amended with a firmware update. Then there's the encryption on the actual Blu-Ray discs, which - as far as we know - remains inviolate.

Still, it's a start. It's certainly not what Sony wants to hear, particularly as Hotz is planning to publish elements of his decryption of the PS3's SPUs to his blog to let others play around with them.

This one's going to run, kids. Keep an eye out.

Rob Hobson