Naughty hackers have broken through the increased security measures Sony introduced with the PSP's 1.51/2 and 2.00 firmware, according to a variety of reports.
Good news for homebrew software developers, who just want to make interesting applications and things like emulators – but bad news for Sony, for whom the potential piracy implications will be a bigger issue.
Sony has yet to comment on the 2.00 breakthrough, but we'd imagine the loop – which involves an exploit based on the wallpaper feature introduced with 2.00 – will be closed in future firmware updates.
For a while there it looked like those without PSPs running version 1.5 firmware were going to be robbed of homebrew software applications for a long time. There was talk of software that reverted 1.52 and 2.00 firmware to 1.5, but that evaporated after – from what we can gather – the hackers working on it threw their toys out of the pram. Now it looks like homebrew fans might be saved thanks to one of the oldest and dearest tricks in the book – the buffer overflow.
Regular everyday PC hackers have used similar tricks for ages – give something more data than it can handle and then see if you can get the overflow to execute. Apparently, after a bit of fooling around, somebody thought of embedding a bit of code on the end of a ludicrously large wallpaper file, and then uploading it to the PSP and seeing if it could be executed – and it worked.
Gizmodo sums it up best (and funniest) – "first off, this entire process sounds as arcane and exciting as making special monkey brain sausage AND second off it means that someone out there sat down and said 'Hmmm... So I'll make a really big PSP wallpaper and embed byte code in it. Just for kicks. You know, because I'm not dating anyone right now.'" Quite so. Already there are "Hello World" programs doing the rounds and other demo-style offerings. How long before we see emulators?
Sony will presumably close the loop on this in a security update or in the next major firmware version, assuming there is one – and that's understandable given the potential piracy concerns – but we'd imagine people will be warier of applying the update this time around. And, with the PSP now launched worldwide, Sony will have to act speedily if it wants to stop the spread – most units are now 1.52 (Europe/US) and the new Japanese white models are 2.00, but if both are hackable then it's not going to be enough. Some game software claims not to work on older firmware, but we've already seen workarounds for this.
Meanwhile, a company called China Xtreme Enterprise has announced an "Asterix" cover for the PSP, which is basically a white faceplate that people can snap onto the front of their black PSP to make it look like the new "ceramic" model released in Japan earlier this month. It won't have the white backside, but it will be pretty convincing. And on that note – whatever Sony does about the 2.00 exploit, we're pretty convinced it'll want to shut down this particular enterprise. You can see a picture of the Asterix cover over on Kotaku.