Hackers revive PS3 OtherOS feature

Linux compatibility returns to PlayStation 3 in unofficial firmware update

Hobbyists have released an unofficial patch for the PlayStation 3 which adds an enhanced version of the original OtherOS feature, allowing Linux to be installed on the console.

The update is named OtherOS++ and according to hacker Graf Chokolo, "can read/write anything in PS3 RAM" and is "very useful for HV hacking".

The software allows for much greater control of the PlayStation 3's memory and systems than the original official feature and works by exploiting an older version of the firmware.

The OtherOS option was disabled from the PlayStation 3 in March 2010, amidst "security concerns". These followed from infamous hacker George Hotz exploiting the feature to gain full read/write access to the console.

Although OtherOS was not widely used by ordinary users its removal became a rallying cause for hackers and only increased their interest in the PlayStation 3.

In January of this year hacking team Fail0verflow released information on how to completely circumvent the security measures of the PlayStation 3 - citing the removal of OtherOS as the catalyst for their actions.

Other disgruntled users chose to sue Sony as part of a class action in the U.S., while activist group Anonymous often mentioned the feature as a key reason behind their attacks on Sony.

However, there has been no suggestion thus far that the feature is involved in the ongoing PlayStation Network security breach, in terms of either the motivations of the hackers or their means of entry into the system.

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Latest comments (19)

Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
Not that I'm excusing the recent security issues that have plagued Sony, but it seems to me that all of their trouble over the last 6-12 months with hackers and whatnot has stemmed from their trying to accommodate hobbyists through the inclusion of OtherOS. Is this ultimately the thanks they get for building bridges with the 'hacking' community?!
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Jake Clayton9 years ago
Terence, the reason they have been targetted, is they sold otherOS as a feature of the console.

something you bourght at release, something which even enticed a few hobbyists to aquire a ps3, and then they said, oh sorry you don't truely own all these features you have already paid for, as we are removing one.

thats what started this massive sh*tstorm and sony completely deserve it for trying to step on consumers.

the recent security issues of course was someone just trying to make some money. and unrelated to the OtherOS.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 9 years ago

Well, Sony gave the hobbyists Linux. Which is nice, but they disabled 3d acceleration (no access to the GPU). A nice gaming console, without fast 3D? So the hacking started immediately (to break through the hypervisor to be able to access the GPU programmatically). Yes, they gave something, but not everything the hackers wanted. Which was, in reality, to use the console to its fullest capabilities.
Their trouble started from removing OtherOS completely, which was just provided enough fuel to the fire to burn Sony. Naturally, this has nothing to do with the PSN breach.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 4th May 2011 1:28pm

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Show all comments (19)
Sony had an amazing initiative with the OtherOS thing, particularly considering the amazing piece of hardware the PS3 was at launch. Doing it half-heartedly, though, was a serious mistake and a catalyst for the whole geohotz event-thing. The PSN breach just seems untimely, not directly related.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
But again, was OtherOS not removed because it was identified as a weak point into the console's security -- something which hackers were known to be exploiting? I don't know the ins and outs of the case, but I thought OtherOS was removed in direct response to actions taken by hackers like George Hotz et al.

And the security breach may be unconnected to their woes with the hacking community, but it's nonetheless an incredible coincidence.
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OtherOs was removed because geohot was using it to hack into the PS3
The hacking wasn't a result of otherOS being demoed it was the reason it was removed
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Dom Almond9 years ago
The thing that got up my nose was the fact that the recent attack has left the ps3 gaming community with no online access for over 2 weeks now. If the attack was aimed at Sony, then why should we suffer as well? The hackers say they want the gamers on their side, yet we seem to have got the sharp end of the stick!
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 9 years ago

I think this is were Sony made its greatest and only mistake - it made itself a target by a series of arrogant statements. First it got the attention of geeks, then the white hats, and then the black hats. Remember the kids arguing on the playground about whose father is the strongest ? Hacker mentality is about doing the impossible, beating the odds... The more Sony made defiant statements about striking down all the ps3 breakers, the more came to challenge them. Essentially a PR disaster, not a technical one. Why? Because the unbreakable system is a myth. For one very simple reason. It needs to be used to function as intended.

Hackers do not care about gamers.... as they mostly fell into the category what they call "lamer".
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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts9 years ago
I never really understood why Sony included the OtherOS feature in the first place. It seems to me that any feature that allows users to work directly with the hardware at that level is going to invite hackers.

That being said, you either go all in or not at all. Sony should've included complete access to the hardware in the PS3 through the OtherOS and should've continued to support it through the subsequent firmware updates. They didn't, and now they're suffering. Not saying it's right, just saying it's true.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 9 years ago
As Extra Credits says, you don't mess with the type of people who put Linux on the PS3 for fun. These types can get it running on a wrist watch.
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It is never warranted to remove a paid for and advertised feature while denying service if you wish not to upgrade.

There is a good and bad to everything and Sony just cant figure it out and has to sallow the consequences.
Just read what Tom Keresztes wrote above.

Lessoned learnt, what every they put out is going to be hacked regards less so put up your best and not cheap patch work in protecting the system. Especial since they switched online service out of the blue. People are going to want more than you offer and then Sony offered it with OtherOs, but took it away so they got bit.
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Tyron Govender9 years ago

I think Sony included Linux on PS3 for the same reason they included YaBasic on PS2 - to avoid an import tax in Europe, by classifying the console as a computer:
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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 9 years ago
Cool, now I can finally update to a 3.55 CFW so I can at least play some more newer games I bought, only to find out they didn't work on 3.15 (and also use the Move which I also bought for connecting to the PC), and all CFW's up until now needed a complete reformat of the drive so you lost your real OtherOS partition..
Ofcourse I'd rather have Sony restore OtherOS (but he they are japanese so that would be a major honor problem), or start a XNA-kinda program where you can create and use homebrow from the XMB itself... But as I'm still at OFW3.15 and not being able to go online OR enjoy newer games, I can only turn to a CFW so I will still only miss PSN..

And removing OtherOS never was for security reasons, at least not to any normal thinking person.. Hackers would ofcourse not upgrade to a higher firmware until they found a way through OtherOS to actually hack the PS3 fully, in the end it never really was geohot's OtherOS hack that caused the breakthrough, it was the Jailbreak method which was based on cloning a service-stick.. Also let's not forget Sony already removed OtherOS from the Firmware for the Slim which was about 4 months before we heard anything from Geohot who was asked by some friends to look into the PS3..
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Jake Clayton9 years ago
At Pure evil: you are mistaking two groups as one and the same.

The hacktavists (Anonymous) who arn't the most tech savy guys on the net, but a good bunch of guys who thought sony removing features people had already paid for was wrong, they attacked sony with a distributed denial of service attack using their aptly named "low orbital ion canon" tool, expecting it to only shut down their website servers, to their dismay they found out these servers also were integral to the playstation network, which lead to it being offline for a couple of days.

Anonymous then apologised for the attacks and said they never wanted to harm the consumers in anyway, and discontinued attacks till they could re-think a strategy to place pressure on sony without harming consumers, geo then accepted an injunction in an out of court settlement. which lead anonymous to the decision of putting their actions against sony on semi-perminant haitus until which time as there was another legal battle.

Sadly a while later an unknown (very tech savy guy or group) decided to exploit a breach in sony's security by implanting data requests on incoming traffic to sony's servers, this then lead to an unknown ammount of the sony database being retrieved and stolen.

This then lead to the taking down of the PSN as damage control incase the attack continued onto the 18th. Sony is now in the process of rebuilding the network and its unlikely the hackers did this for either publicity to sony's actions against geo or to inconveniance sony, the information harvested in these attacks (excluding card details) is vast and worth a small fortune just in the form of an active email list, which could be split up and sold in chunks to avoid any attention.

Some sony account holders card details have also supposedly been offered for sale on forums around the internet, but as no-one will openly discuss any details on these forums its unlikely that this will ever be verified as card details from the attacks.
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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology9 years ago
this is rather interesting how with a hack firmware this feature is brought back. I wonder what people will use the linux features for? running a little media centre? now that sounds like a good idea!

this whole "lets attack sony" thing is all well and good as long as the consumers doesnt get affected...
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Reilly Davis9 years ago
i was under the impression that they added linux so they had users trying to make games with the console so they could easily hire people that were already somewhat familier with the system that case about ya-basic sounds interesting though
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 9 years ago
Tryon, the import tax story has been debunked before in coments on this site; there was no difference in tax rates between consoles and computers by the time the PS3 came out.
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Nick Burcombe CEO & Co Founder, Playrise Digital Ltd.9 years ago
In a similar way to whats going on with Kinect - where Microsoft have helped facilitate this outburst of creativity by providing PC driver support for non-XBox developers - couldn't all this have been avoided by providing a legitimate route for GPU support? Was it really that much of a threat to the core business if a handful of indie were exploring from a different direction? Wouldn't it be better to encourage widespread adoption and enthusiasm for the console from these non-traditional developers? I'm wondering, perhaps naively, was the original motivation for hacking 'OtherOS' in the first place to genuinely bring GPU access or was that an excuse to break the DRM, jailbraking the system and getting free games?
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game9 years ago
@Nick. Re"was the original motivation for hacking 'OtherOS' in the first place to genuinely bring GPU access or was that an excuse to break the DRM, jailbraking the system and getting free games?"
I suspect both, as I doubt every hackers's motives were the same, any more than every one using CFW does it for the same reason.
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