Microsoft takes Xbox security war to Hong Kong

The Xbox hacking “community” receives another heavy blow courtesy of Microsoft’s legal department

Microsoft has told News.com that it has taken legal action against Hong Kong-based games importer and modification stockist Lik Sang. The web-based retailer was popular amongst those importing games from Japan and those in search of illicit mod chips, which allow Xbox (and other consoles) to run games from all regions as well as pirated software and homemade programs.

Neither Lik Sang nor Microsoft has so far been willing to discuss the legal action, but many believe that it was Lik Sang's decision to purchase a mod chip outright from its developer, and fit and ship it right out of its Hong Kong offices, that most directly contributed to the action. The advanced nature of the PC-BioXX "development tool" may well have led Microsoft to court.

The complicated chip, seen here in installation diagrams obtained by GI.Biz, installed a counterfeit BIOS - the chip that directs the hardware at its most basic level - which could be used to run pirated software, games from other regions and even unsupported software developed by Xbox hackers. PC-BioXX also allowed users to upgrade the counterfeit BIOS by means of a serial adapter.

What may have caused Microsoft so much concern though, was the PC-BioXX's ability to bypass that BIOS and boot using the regular Microsoft parameters if the user so desired. With this function, Microsoft would effectively lose control of the user.

As previously reported, Microsoft has told users of its Xbox Live service that the service "may only be accessed with an unmodified, except for Microsoft authorised repairs and upgrades, Xbox video game console". Another clause in the End User License Agreement allows Microsoft's servers to speak to the console and establish if it is hacked or not.

In the case of traditional modded Xbox consoles, the modification would be immediately obvious to Microsoft, and that's a position the platform holder would be comfortable with. Not happy, of course, but nevertheless comfortable. It could, in theory, tag and monitor hacked users to ensure they don't get up to any mischief.

But the PC-BioXX system Lik Sang stocked allows users to revert to the system defaults, effectively spreading a veil over illicit modifications through which Microsoft has no way of seeing.

Microsoft is evidently stepping up its security measures to include litigation. Having secured the Xbox Live service, reconfigured the Xbox hardware - a move which set hackers back by years - and now shut down the foremost source for illicit modifications in the world, Microsoft is very close to winning its battle. Proof positive that with enough money you can fight your way back from just about any security breach.

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