Deep Insecurity

The failure of the PS3's security signals an unhappy new year for Sony - and raises questions for every console maker

It's hard to imagine a more unpleasant start to 2011 for Sony than the revelation which greeted the games industry as it returned to work this week. The PlayStation 3, considered since its launch to be one of the most secure consoles ever constructed, appears to have had its security systems blown wide open by a group of dedicated hackers.

Huge flaws in the software which is designed to prevent the copying of PS3 games or the execution of unauthorised code have been revealed, and the consensus among those familiar with the hardware is that - assuming the hackers have accomplished what they claim, and they've given no reason to doubt them thus far - Sony's machine is now practically wide open.

The spectre which looms over the PS3 in 2011, then, is one of an arms race with hackers. The team responsible for the current hack, Fail0verflow, professes to be firmly anti-piracy and interested only in giving consumers the right to execute whatever code they choose on hardware they have bought - a common ideal of the technologically minded. Other groups, of course, will use the knowledge Fail0verflow have released in far less scrupulous ways.

The biggest headache for Sony, however, lies in the fact that what has been exposed is such a fundamental security problem that it has actually handed hackers the private keys used to sign code to run on the PS3. For those unfamiliar with this kind of security, the bottom line is that those keys should never, ever fall into outside hands - they will allow programmers to write any code they like, including custom firmware, which the PS3 will run just as happily as if it had originated from within Sony itself. Moreover, those keys can't simply be revoked by a firmware upgrade or even a new version of the console, because every piece of software released for the PS3 thus far relies on them to operate.

Recriminations will inevitably fly over the hack itself. Plenty of people are already lining up to condemn the hackers who revealed the security flaw, which seems like fairly misdirected anger - investigating and uncovering security problems is a key part of the process which makes security better down the line, and bluntly, it's far better that this kind of issue be revealed by a "white hat" (that is to say, non-destructive and moral) group of hackers than for it to be found and exploited by "black hat" (destructive, profiteering or outright malicious) hackers.

Others are, rather more justifiably, angry with Sony. The problem revealed by the hackers was a pretty basic one - an equation which needs to be fed a random number in order to generate cryptographically secure files was instead being given the same number every single time code was encrypted, which made it easy for the hackers to reverse-engineer the maths and spit out the all-important private key. That's an amateur level mistake, and while plenty of blame will no doubt be apportioned within Sony for the error, the rest of the industry can quite reasonably ask why processes to catch this kind of problem either weren't in place, or didn't work.

Because it is, after all, the rest of the industry that will suffer the greatest impact from this security failure. The hackers who follow in Fail0verflow's footsteps and create custom firmware to run pirated games, emulators and so on will be targeting Sony's hardware, but it's third-party publishers and developers who have most right to be outraged. The license fee they pay to Sony for every piece of software they sell is, in many respects, a fee for security - the price of selling software on a platform where piracy is difficult or damn-near impossible. Now that has been taken away from them, with the PS3 looking set to become the easiest platform to pirate software for - easier even than the Wii, DS or PSP, all notorious piracy targets but all of which require some degree of technical knowledge to get pirated software working.

In Sony's defence, it's worth noting that the PS3 has managed to retain its security for far, far, longer than any other console in recent memory. Until the launch of the "PS3 Jailbreak" last summer - which was rapidly neutered by firmware updates - the console's defences remained unbroken. Even in the wake of the apparently catastrophic security breach of the past week, that represents an excellent record.

It's worth asking, however, why exactly that security remained in place for so long. The hackers at Fail0verflow have a simple explanation - at launch, the PS3 catered to hackers and hobbyists by allowing them to run the Linux operating system through the OtherOS functionality. Even though this wasn't something which large numbers of consumers exploited, it was enough to satisfy the small number of people who wanted the ability to use their hardware in this way. More importantly, Fail0verflow argue that it also kept the PS3's security off the hacker radar, since there was almost no legitimate reason for them to break into the console.

Taking a cynical - or perhaps realistic - standpoint, these arguments seem a little over-simplified and idealistic. There's no question but that plenty of people were attempting to break the PS3's security systems long before the ability to run Linux was removed by Sony. Mod chips and other such hacks are, after all, a big business as much as they are a hobbyist enterprise, and a great many people who work on cracking security are motivated by money, not by idealism.

On one front, however, it's hard to argue with Fail0verflow's logic. Sony's removal of Linux support from the PS3 Slim and subsequent deletion of OtherOS functionality from the original PS3's firmware was seen as a red flag to a bull within the hacker community, and activity on cracking the console's security unquestionably intensified in the wake of those actions. Many hackers who had never contemplated investigating Sony's security systems and probably never even used PS3 Linux were incensed - here was a system which provably had a working version of Linux, but which had been prevented from running it. This is exactly the kind of challenge which the hacker mindset relishes.

As a consequence, it's quite likely that more talented hacker groups, who had previously ignored the PS3, became interested in the problem. Bluntly, it seems that there's a two-tier system in place in the hacking community - there are the seriously clever, inventive people who investigate security systems and uncover their flaws, and then there are those who take those flaws and build products (mod chips, firmwares and so on) which exploit them for the purposes of piracy. While Sony maintained Linux on the PS3, those in the former group steered clear, for the most part - and those in the latter group simply weren't talented or knowledgeable enough to crack the security on the console.

There are other factors at play here as well, of course - and it's worth recalling that Sony originally removed Linux from the platform's firmware after exploits posted by famed iPhone hacker George Hotz suggested that OtherOS could be a viable vector for hackers attacking the system. However, the timing is hard to ignore - and it raises some interesting questions for securing future consoles.

OtherOS functionality seemed like a lame duck on the PS3 - it was relatively tricky to set up and used by a tiny, tiny fraction of the console's user-base, who were also likely to be the kind of people who bought the hardware and never purchased games for it, making them into a net loss to Sony. However, we must now ask whether what Sony actually bought for itself with OtherOS functionality was the goodwill of the hacker community - a four year grace period without piracy.

Much of what I wrote about Sony in 2010 focused on the transition inside the company as the firm learned from the mistakes and excesses of the engineering-led Ken Kutaragi era and shifted its focus to being software-led and developer-friendly. That's a change which is still underway, and is still a net positive - but perhaps the dropping of OtherOS, a Kutaragi-era feature if ever there was one, was a major misstep during the process. If engineers understand one thing, it's the engineering, "hacker" mindset - and OtherOS' function, in the end, may have been to satisfy that mindset.

Other console makers, as well as Sony itself, could do well to watch and learn. If providing a sufficiently expansive walled garden for hackers to play with - and a somewhat limited and closely monitored version of Linux seemed to do the trick nicely - can actually ward off piracy for several years, is it not a reasonable price to pay? If the hackers who are actually skilled enough to break this kind of complex security are really interested in open hardware rather than piracy, doesn't it make sense to stop treating this as a war, and try to meet them halfway? As Sony faces the stark prospect of a 2011 with the PS3 utterly bereft of security, these are questions every hardware manufacturer ought to be asking.

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Latest comments (27)

James Steele Senior Software Engineer, Nintendo of Europe GmbH7 years ago
Even if OtherOS was used be only 1% of the insyalled userbase, that's still over four hundred thousand people who lost something that was important to them. And on the contrary, the Linux install was pretty straight forward;

Boot installer from USB stick

It was a bit of a lame duck in that there was very limited access to the RSX, which I think prevented it from becoming much more widely used. The existance of OtherOS didn't so much as quell the interest of hackers, but instead, I think it gave Sony a sound legal argument that any sort of hacking was only for piracy due to the openness of the system and frightened them off.

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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 7 years ago
I think there's a definite lesson here to console makers, whether we like it or not:

Don't bother catering to your enthusiast community. They will hurt you. Sony tried to cater to them with the Other OS feature, and then perpetually enigmatic Geohot burned them with his exploit. They closed that hole - pretty much out of necessity - and the Linux community went "WE'LL SHOW YOU". It's like dealing with spoiled children who just happen to know where the cookie jar is.

Meanwhile, I don't see this kind of outrage against the Xbox 360, who 1) has a paid system that exploits its users by withholding anything somewhat useful from them, 2) actively disdains any unauthorized modifications to its dashboard on pain of being permanently barred from Xbox Live, and 3) took great pains to create a proprietary system for a hard disk drive that would enable high margin sales of hard drives at two to five times the going rate for similar spec drives for the desktop and PC. Linux users disdain proprietary software and hardware by nature; I would think they'd be so hard up to get at the 360 that it'd make them cry.

The lesson out of this is to close your system, exploit your users, and forget about making things easier for them. They will fall in line, they will pay more than they have to, and they will fight anyone that says otherwise, if your average comment thread is indicative. Sony has a system where I can take out my hard drive and put in a 2TB drive at will, where I could for three years make modifications to the base operating system, and where I could load my own music, pictures and photos with a minimum of fuss (the 360's system kinda sucks), and for that, they're being punished by the very people they tried to appease. These Linux morons don't get how good they had it, and I'll guarantee you that future systems don't make the same mistake twice. They will have DRM on them that will make us wail and cry, as we reach into our wallets because we don't know better, and it's partly their fault for acting like such spoiled brats when their toy got taken away.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship7 years ago
+1 Chris.
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Show all comments (27)
Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

Microsoft also has Creators Club, so if you are keen programming for the 360 you do not have to resort to piracy.
Also, Sony's linux implementation was very limited - without access to the RSX (just an unaccelerated framebuffer, so no hardware accelerated 2d or 3d), not to mention that it does not leave you much free memory anyway. The PS3 only allows an app to use 192megs of memory, i guess ps3 running Linux leaves you even less.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 7th January 2011 10:04am

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Andrien Gbinigie QA Tester, SEGA Europe7 years ago
Very well written Chris, couldn't agree more.
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Aaron Mathias Executive 7 years ago
@ Chris

Eloquently put mate but then again I doubt Sony was catering to the enthusiast community consciously. During the PS2 era, I do remember the EU slapping humungous excise duties on Sony because they had claimed rebates while importing the PS2 under the guise that it was a computer system. They did show the Linux kit as a proof of the PS2's compter-like capabilities. But thats a different story. Update: I think Sony still had to fork out penalties
In my opinion for the PS3, the linux standard was incorporated in the first gen SKUs to finally showcase the PS3 with it's "computing" prowess a la the Cell architecture. The very fact that a user could install a PS3-flavoured Linux showd Sony had the cojones to execute something rad - Atleast that was my perception.
Apart from that I dont think Sony really had any serious roadmap for Linux. Frankly it would have been amazing if they could.
About "not seeing this kind of outrage for the 360", I confess I'm nonplussed considering that there has already been a perfectly working mod solution on it for years now. To that extent the PS3 still hasnt exhibited any piracy and I sincerely hope it will not. What it will hopefully do is fuel sane homebrew development by the "Linux morons," which I whole-heartedly emrace ofcourse at the owner's risk. If Sony can come up with some-way to make that legit like have a developer-driven free app portal (Note: Im not calling it a "store"). It will not be easy, hell it may not be possible but who knows..
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Graeme Quantrill Mobile App Developer 7 years ago
I partly agree with Chris but not 100%. The cost of HDD's on the xbox is a joke but it's incredibly simple to drop another 'none official' drive in. The maximum HDD drive you can have in a PS3 is 500Mb's and there are a fair few other limitations such as SATAII drives can cause lag within the system and the drive itself cannot be over 9.5mm thick.

MS also have the XNA stuff which does require a license but it's cheap. Anyone interested in homebrew can purchase it and it's well supported.
Sony had the Linux but removing has just attracted the wrong kind of attention. If they had perhaps left it in and put security around it, they may have not attracted such attention.

As it stands now, the Xbox requires a fair amount of technical knowledge to hack (as MS regularly change their DVD drive manufacturers) and being banned from XBL happens but generally only to the people who do not follow instructions (i.e. it's simple not to get caught).
Sony on the other hand have been blown open. You can hack it with a simple HDD, usb stick and potentially CD/DVD.

This whole story strongly reminds me of the Dreamcast which if you recall, had a bootloader which allowed piracy to the masses and ultimately was it's demise. Both publishers and developers pulled away and in the end, it finished Sega's consumer hardware production.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

Dreamcast did not have any DRM whatsoever, but it used storage called GD drive (an optical disc which could hold a little more information than a regular cd), but could read CDs. The reason that the Dreamcast failed was not piracy. I am not familiar with the exact reasons why it failed in the market, but the PS2 were released less than a year later, and at that time shops were full of unsold Dreamcast boxes, despite Frys sold them on a $99 discount. Bad marketing, i guess.
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Kevin Clark-Patterson Lecturer in Games Development, Lancaster and Morecambe College7 years ago
The Dreamcast's demise was not due to fact one of the reasons why the Original PlayStation was so popular was inherently due to piracy.

Sony obviously built up a strong user base under awesome games and ingenuity with the PS1 which neither love nor money stopped them from migrating to the PS2. They obviously learnt from security errors during the PS1 & PS2 days which relayed in the awesome PS3 system impenetrability until recently.

The Wii is the easiest of current gen consoles to mod, with the Xbox being close behind provided you have the correct equipment and can follow patching guides etc to be able to play online but the PSGroove was the easiest of them all before Sony nipped it in the bud. It will be interesting to see how the system is compromised next...
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Chris Hunter-Brown IT / Games specialist, BBFC7 years ago
Can't agree with Chris at all really.

Removing the OtherOS feature was effectively removing functionality from a product that someone had already paid for. There are some I'm sure, who based their decision to purchase a PS3 on that exact feature. If you consider that unlikely, I refer you to the sizeable community that grew up around homebrew on the original Xbox, the work of which undoubtedly influenced it's successor.

In the era of an App store over which Apple have enormous control and platforms like Android comprising a built in kill switch which has already been actively used, it is easy to see how some groups saw this as the thin end of the wedge. It is more likely that principle, rather than anyone's toys being taken away that prompted a response. As others have pointed out, locking out RSX from the off severely limited it's adoption and usefulness and users were more or less left to their own devices from that point forwards. It came across as a mere checkbox feature for the competition to many at the time.

I would suggest the actual lesson here would be that consumers won't tolerate things being removed after the event, especially if nothing is offered in return. Whatever your position here, that doesn't strike me as the most childish thing in the world.

It's a bit short sighted to try and pin the restrictions that have and will continue to be placed on platforms past, present and future on to "linux morons". Said morons are partly responsible for our ability to comment on the issue as I very much doubt everybody here is using propriety software.

I would hope Sony & Publishers save the bluster for those who are actively profiting from pirating their products instead.
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Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software7 years ago
Again with the flamebaiting..

DRM, like any arms race is a losing proposition. All the way back to the Apple II, when Broderbund claimed they had uncrackable copies of Lode Runner. DVD's, Consoles, iPods, iPhones...the list goes on and on.

As I said in an earlier thread regarding this... the point Chris, and a lot of others are missing is that while piracy is bad, companies utilizing a policy of attempting to retain some level of ownership over what you buy is ridiculous. They are attempting to use software licensing models on hardware.

It's been pretty firmly established, from the PC you type on, to the jailbroken iPhone: whether the manufacturer likes it or not, when you buy it, it's yours. This attitude of trying to weld the hood shut is patently absurd on its face: none of you would buy a car with a hood welded shut, and a EULA seal on the doors. Especially if said EULA on your new car said you could never take it to a repair shop other than the dealer you bought it from. Or that you could be arrested and imprisoned for putting on an aftermarket part.

Yet, when Sony, or Apple or anyone else proclaims this, all of a sudden, you get some folks out there beating this drum: the hackers are ruining it for everyone. How dare they break DRM? DVD Jon was put on trial twice, simply because he, like many others wanted to use their DVD disks, and DVD drives that they paid for in a way that the media publishers did not like. Piracy exists. These are people who *never* pay. Ever. Dealing with them creatively tends to work out better in the long term than locking everyone up. Piracy is a fact of life, but what Chris needs to understand, and grasp here is that: legitimate use exists too.

Legitimate use is not only what Sony or a company tell you it is. Believe it or not, if I buy a PS3, I have every right to do whatever I want with that shiny new piece of hardware. I can saw it in half, or apply custom firmware. Sony has every right in this case to void my warranty. Deny me support.

But, no company has the right to tell you what you can, and cannot do with private property you have paid them for. The sooner Sony, and Apple and a host of others come to terms with this, the sooner they can spend the wasted money on DRM on something useful: better quality games.
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Wesley Williams Quality Assurance 7 years ago
Fantastic editorial with fantastic comments to go along with it. Sony's partners will no doubt be concerned about the future of the platform, but the system is going to sell like gangbusters if the exploit is as comprehensive as it's being reported. Time to put the hardware price up, encourage developers to go multiplayer only or release dedicated PS Move titles.


Is it safe to assume Sony can control network access as strictly has Microsoft?

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Wesley Williams on 7th January 2011 4:24pm

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@ Christopher Bowen

Great response!!!

@ Christopher McCraken
"The sooner Sony, and Apple and a host of others come to terms with this, the sooner they can spend the wasted money on DRM on something useful: better quality games." Maybe you can rip them off too!

How can they or any other developer do this when you are promoting piracy or the right to customise/corrupt the workings of products deemed as mass appeal?

Chris, sadly you and your team will never be successful or profitable if you have that mindset at the helm!!!
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Chris Hunter-Brown IT / Games specialist, BBFC7 years ago

Excuse me? I'm missing the part where Christopher, or anyone else, promoted piracy?

I really don't see what the success and/or profitability of his company has to do with anything.

As much as this is an emotive issue for a lot of people, I really don't think such reactionary comments with words being put in the mouths of others that way are really on. I've certainly not come to expect it over the years reading this site.

Anyhow, back onto the topic at hand.

Consider this another way, say someone worked out how to circumvent EA's $10 project enabling all purchases of a used copy of their games to access that content for free. Would it be correct and/or profitable for EA to then stop providing that content/functionality for everyone? Even those who paid their $10 or bought the game new?

I think you would find that would work out pretty badly for them. Yes, that's an extreme example.

The key here isn't to bury heads in the sand and blame piracy for everything, nor bin DRM & control over platforms entirely but to do it smartly in a way that doesn't impact your paying customers, those who *want* to give you money.

The likes of Valve, Blizzard and the increasing number of companies adopting free-to-play models seem to be managing this perfectly well in their own ways.

Clearly they are doomed in the long run with such an attitude.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Hunter-Brown on 7th January 2011 6:20pm

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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago

Those said morons are also responsible for the success of iPhone, Mac as those platforms are built on opensource technologies (FreeBSD based kernel, the compiler (gcc) just to name the MAJOR ones)
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 7 years ago
@Christopher Bowen: You really have no idea what you are talking about. IMHO you sound just like all those people who only care about their games.. You're whole story just sinks IMHO especially with comments like 'linux morons' and 'It's like dealing with spoiled children who just happen to know where the cookie jar is.'.. and especially coming from a journalist/editor, well I now know I'll take your articles with a big bag of salt.
There are enough people who bought the PS3 for the OtherOS option and the bluray player/mediastreaming with games as a plus (Remember, Sony put the PS3 into the market as a do-it-all-machine back then, not as a gaming system, hell in some countries they actually profited from the OtherOS option as they could sell it as a computer instead of a gamingconsole which normally has a higher taxpercentage).
Also remember Geohot only started working on trying to 'hack' the PS3 AFTER the Slim was put into the market, and he also remarked that there was no technical reason for sony to remove OtherOS from the Slim (and ofcourse we all knew that). People where already getting better at getting the grips on using the CELL, and at that time more and more projects of emulators where starting to popup (which ofcourse is a commercial hell for some of sony's partners who are putting out libraries/HDremakes of their content), also if homebrew was getting better and better (even with the lack of full HW 3D/2D/video acceleration) it would also not be a good thing for Sony partners..
I know it's difficult for people like you, but TRY to put yourself into the shoes of a person who bought their PS3 for OtherOS, bluray/mediastreaming with gaming only as a plus, how would you like it if an option you use commenly was removed (remember you also might need to update for newer bluray releases so you cannot stay on 3.15 forever). Or simply put, how would you like it if they removed the games part just because it would interfere with their bluraymovies part.

Too many people only see the PS3 as a gamingconsole, even though Sony did not put it into the market as a gaming only console..
I'm sorry but I'm fed up with 'gaming morons' who condone sony removing major functionalities after the console was sold.

Another mistake Sony made, was not giving people the ability to develop homebrew like Microsoft does with XNA studio (only problem with that is you can only share it with other XNA people, but ok it's better as not having it at all). Homebrew gives so much extra new possibilities so we are not stuck with badly designed/working crap like we now have on the XMB. Just let people create their own apps that can run from the XMB and you'll see that you'll get so much better apps than the few crap apps sony is providing.

Personally I like having homebrew, especially in regards to emulators etc. I have a lot of old consoles and games, but some of them (well actually most of them now) I cannot even connect them to my projector without the need of an extra box (or impossible to get cable), so emulators are the simplest (and sometimes only) way to keep playing my old games.

I do not condone piracy, and therefore I find some of the PS3 community hackers very hypocritical (like matthieul) who first say they don't condone piracy but then release an app to unpack a commercial game.
Also don't think all so called 'white hat' hackers are actually that, a lot are also 'black hat' behind the scenes and known under different names..
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Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software7 years ago
@Tyrone: Ad Hominem attacks are counter-productive. Always.

I do not support piracy in the slightest. Nor did I advocate it. I also did not endorse it.

I do support the right of a person to use whatever they want on a PS3, Xbox, Xbox360, Wii, PC, Laptop, netbook, etc. I support the right of anyone in the technology industry to adapt, experiment, and for the right of anyone, and I do mean anyone to use their hardware for what they want to do. Screaming "piracy" as loud as you can has been going on since the radio was invented.

Your statement: How can they or any other developer do this when you are promoting piracy or the right to customise/corrupt the workings of products deemed as mass appeal? has been used by:

The record industry, when the first consumer radio's appeared.
The record industry again, when FM appeared.
The record industry, during every single technological advancement in consumer grade items.
The movie industry, for most of the same reasons listed above. Let's not forget the battle over the VCR!
The Software industry, both games and applications. Since the first PC's were shipped.

For over 100 years now, we have had numerous people scream "But but but PIRATES". And yet, somehow, miraculously...through it we are. Yes, times have changed. Yes, the landscape is different. However lets just remember one thing here: you can scream at the top of your lungs, in the're just tired, and the issue remains. There are smarter ways of dealing with illicit elements of the game industry. Punishing legitimate consumers should never be one of them.

Also, I would like to point out, seeing as I brought up the original record and film industry: Thomas Edison was one of the first media pirates. He stole Le Voyage dans la lune from Georges Méliès. He died penniless, for the most part. Piracy existed then, it exists now. Buying bigger guns has not worked out. It's time to be creative about it.

And, Tyrone, I would like to point out: being creative is how people make profits.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Christopher McCraken on 7th January 2011 8:41pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 7 years ago
^How about some actual suggestions about what to do, then?

Retreading an obvious point and time-traveling through the History of Unfair (Part MCXXVII) doesn't help much. Yes, big companies steal from little inventors, small companies swipe old ideas and rework them. Rock beats Scissors-holding Caveman on the head. This we all know. What's to be done about the more "illicit" element you've mentioned? Creative solutions would help the industry and honest consumers who don't need anything more restrictive tacked into their consoles, correct?

I'd LOVE to hear some input on that. Otherwise, it's like John McCain a few years back running for president saying he KNEW where Bin Laden was and how to get him, but somehow after he lost, NEVER letting the current administration (nor the military, for that matter) in on what he knew...;P
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology7 years ago
i think that even though piracy is bad it cant be stoped so why bother?

putting in harder DRM and other measures will just make people fight it. Have you ever heard of people buying a game,having it not work (after following instructions) and having to resort to downloadinging it illegally to get it TO work?

if game developers/console makers want to get serious about this then they need to devlop something which makes people want to buy that game (and not just pre-order stuff and special bonuses) make the game good!

TES:O doesnt have any DRM in it and its still going strong!

as for consoles sony should do what the wii have done - create a comunity where poeple can flex there creative muscule and use the console for whatever they want to. if not then people will dercover ways to do that anyway.

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Andreas Kannegiesser Project Manager, Enzyme Testing Labs7 years ago
I'm with Mr McCraken on this one here. The point is, Sony offered some programmers the opportunity to develop software designed for the (highly praised by Sony and IBM) Cell processor on a low cost system with Linux running, otherwise a dev station for Cell would have cost much much more (if bought from IBM). I admit, running Linux on PS3 was a pain in the..., but, it was good enough for some. As Sony took this away for the Slim, not a big deal, as they removed it from the old PS3s, the made a few people very angry. These people now had to search for something different, and found their goal maybe in hacking the PS3 to have their affordable Cell dev station back. Who would have imagined that Sony failed so extremely with the non-random random code...?

I'm now very curious to see, what the open public key will bring to the PS3. Maybe the long awaited features that Sony never delivered? Maybe a Skype port, maybe a possibility to install bought games to reduce the wear of the laser units (already had to replace mine once...), or a better browser. Maybe an emulator for PS2 games, someone remembers the backward compatibility? Or the return of Xploder software for cheating. Sure, piracy, which I despise, will be an issue. We will see what Sony's next move will be, if it will be like the last time, letting all users pay for the actions of a few or in this case for their own failure ... I guess that would cost them the last bit of credibility and would give them a very, very hard time for the rest of this console generation and the next one. Their reaction should better be smart and keep the normal user of the PS3 in mind.

Edit: Btw, I'm writing this from a PC with Linux on it. Did you, who rage against hackers, knew that you have to use a cracked library/key for being able to watch your bought DVDs on your own system? That you cannot decide or choose, where you want to watch your own bought DVDs on? There is so much patronizing in the computer world, and some people don't want to take this. I'm a fan of open source and open platforms, and as you can see, there are a lot of people earning money with this kind of software.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andreas Kannegiesser on 8th January 2011 3:15am

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Chris Riccobono QA and Design Lead 7 years ago
@Chris Bowen, I understand your feeling that the PS3 has been cracked, but your synopsis is very off target - Sony has never catered to enthusiasts; XBLA managed to advance low cost independent gaming very early on, which the PSN wasn't able to keep up with, and that drove third party development through the roof for Microsoft. The enthusiast crowd has always been on the Xbox side; PS3 users are more casual and interested in Blu Ray movies and big budget games.

The fact that Sony had a Linux distro on the console was a very smart move, and a great step towards catering to that enthusiast crowd, but was dropped very quickly. The failure of the DRM is not a sign that Sony shouldn't have focused on enthusiasts, but that they did right to make an attempt, like the article says.

This glances over the biggest problem though, which is how deeply the console has been compromised. Even the 360 has had modchips since launch, but XBLA drives sales and third party confidence with the online model - Sony can't fall back on that with PSN!
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Chris Riccobono QA and Design Lead 7 years ago
@Chris McCraken, While DRM is usually a losing proposition like you said, there has to a be a reason the PS3 wasn't compromised for 4 years. It does have a place, however infuriating it may be to end consumers; even though we don't like it, it has been working for companies and that's why they use it.

I'd be just as thrilled as you would be to see it go away, however. Also, has anyone else noticed that most of the people in this thread are named Chris? :P
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Mark Raymond Gamer; Consumer; Blogger 7 years ago
I think this is more to do with the PS3 being sold with a feature (OtherOS), which some people bought it for, with that feature being subsequently, and practically forcibly, removed. I do believe it was wrong, and it's fairly obvious now that some people were upset enough to act against it. Today Sony has to live the consequences of its poor decision making regarding this matter.
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James Butterworth IT Hardware & Software 7 years ago
This is just what Sony and its fannyboys needed to bring them down a peg. First the PS3 loses features over the years, has firmware updates that break functionality, has crap lasers, and now has been blown wide open.

Sorry to tell you, but "I told you so". No company is invincible against enthusiasts. Apple, Microsoft, Sony, you're at the hackers mercy. Like when you're driving on the motorway on wet roads at high speed, you're actually a passenger in the car, anything can happen, and you're at the mercy of several tonnes of metal. I knew PSFreedom and PSJailbreak were just the start, and not the end when Sony patched them.....

Before you all say I don't know my stuff, I'm a 20 years' time-served console and computer repair specialist, I know electronics and modern consoles intimately, I have to. At work I'm unbiased, but in my personal life I'm a 360 man, and proud of it after my work and personal experiences of Sony shite. I'm sick of replacing lasers in the PS1, PS2, and STILL the PS3 FAT and SLIM at work, and I did it with my personal Sony PS1's and PS2's before chucking it all. This serves them and their ass kissers right as far as I'm concerned. If you still can't manufacture a laser correctly that lasts over 6 months Sony, since your Playstation 1 FAT, you shouldn't be making electronics (they're a major laser manufacturer). Nor depriving loyal customers of features, it's pathetic.
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James Butterworth IT Hardware & Software 7 years ago
If you're going to launch a device with so many features, while doing so slagging Microsoft off for releasing several versions of the 360, and THEN go copy them doing the same thing, following this on over more years removing features both hardware and software that people LIKED and BOUGHT your console for, you deserve everything you get. I'm all for an open industry. I'm sick of brand locking from the likes of Apple, Sony and others, being told I can only use their software to put stuff on MY property, that I PAID for, and telling me I can't do what I want with it, I'm sorry, but I WILL!
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Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus 7 years ago
I think I need to clarify some things, especially for a couple programmers who think I "only care about my games", which a cursory glance through my feature archives would say is plain bullshit.

That is NOT the point I'm making. In fact, I'm with you guys: when I buy something, I want to be able to use it the way I intend. Why do you think I use Linux in the first place? I need to clarify for one: when I refer to the Linux "morons", I'm referring to the people responsible for this hack, and others who basically say "we don't get what we want, so we will punish you". Any white hat would have reported this vulnerability to Sony; instead, fail0verflow released it to the wild, while saying "yeah, the pirates are gonna have a field day, tough shit". As the feature mentioned, there's two tiers of crackers; the first tier are the ones that do the work, and the second tier are the scumbags. What these guys did was give the second tier all the ammo they needed while preening and saying "sucks to be you, Sony, should have given us what we wanted!"

They DID get what they wanted, and I'm just as frustrated as anyone that Other OS was so whimsically taken out, with Sony just saying "EULA, suckers". When I say that the lesson is "don't cater to your enthusiasts", I say it with teeth-gritting sarcasm and a good load of righteous anger. I WANT them to cater to us! I want to be able to modify what I buy without violating every end-user agreement and potentially the DMCA. But their reaction - rendering the PS3's security all but useless - is much like a child having a temper tantrum that ends up with a destroyed living room.

It doesn't even matter what the reality of the situation is, to be honest. Even though the idea that the success of the Mac and iPhone is because of the Linux crowd is, to me, laughable (they're based on FreeBSD, but didn't pull out of their mid-90s doldrums until they started locking everything down... doldrums that one could argue were partially caused by the clone scene, but that's a whole other story), the effect of piracy is debatable. What isn't debatable is that if Sony were to, after this, go to their shareholders and say "we're going to stay the course with what we've been doing despite the fact that it has the potential to cost us a lot of money", the shareholders would revolt. All they care about is the bottom line, and this hurts that. If locking down the next system to the point where it's ornerous to its users is even going to make a minuscule positive dent in the bottom line, any company like Sony will do so because it makes the shareholders happy. Hell, all it takes is the perception that it's going to be a positive for them.

That's what they have here. They're going to see that Sony gave people Other OS, took it away because OMG PIRATES, and that the Linux community who had Other OS went and tore the security of the system to pieces as a direct result. I'm saying right now that Other OS was not the hill to die on. And for every time we make a claim for clemency - for a lack of DRM, for more favourable environments for legitimate homebrewing, for the right to not be treated like a criminal that needs to be quarantined before I even open the damn shrinkwrap - we have someone screwing it up. It was all I could do, while watching the presentation, to not scream "God DAMNIT, guys..." at my monitor. All because a few Linux geeks - not users like me who know their way around Linux, but the super geeks - reacted like spoiled brats over something that was - let's face it - comparatively minor in the grand scheme.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago
I think someone at Sony should understand this issue, and open a communication channel for these hackers. After all, they are their consumers, and most of the time die-hard fans of their hardware. Is it really difficult for a supposedly consumer-friendly corporation, or are they just another huge faceless corporate entity?
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