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PS Vita hacked: full system access enabled for homebrew

Browser-based exploit runs on the latest 3.60 firmware.

Ever since its 2011 launch, PlayStation Vita's security has remained relatively intact. We've seen a bunch of PSP emulator exploits, and around a year ago, a native Vita exploit was released for an older firmware that required the unit tethered to a PC. Now, hacking collective Team Molecule has released a new exploit that fully unlocks the full power of the Vita hardware for homebrew developers.

Dubbed HENkaku, the exploit is preposterously simple to install. Just ensure that you are running the latest firmware 3.60, then visit a specially prepared website to activate the exploit. The injected code removes the Vita's file system from its sandbox and allows users to access it via FTP. From there, homebrew packages can be transferred across and run on the unit.

The exploit also works on the PlayStation TV/Vita TV micro-console, and the open access to the file system means that the ability to whitelist all titles has now returned, meaning that games which were bizarrely locked out - including Sony's own, some of which worked great - can now once again run. Other applications include the ability for developers to create homebrew apps that overclock elements of the Vita at a level that's inaccessible to game developers.

Various emulators are available right now, along with a Vita port of id software's classic Doom. The SNES emulator appears to run all titles - bar SuperFX games - at full speed.

Right now, there isn't much to play with homebrew-wise, aside from a Vita version of Doom and a smattering of emulators, but it's expected that the release of HENkaku will see this situation change rapidly. Any such exploit opens the door to piracy, and while there are no anti-DRM measures in the package, Team Molecule accepts the possibility that pirated commercial games may well happen.

"It does not let you install or run Vita 'backups', warez, or any pirated content," says developer Yifan Lu. "It does not disable any DRM features. It does not let you decrypt encrypted games. Here's my stance on this: I do not care one way or the other about piracy. I do not judge people who do pirate. I will not act as the police for pirates. However, I will personally not write any tools that aid in piracy. It is my choice just as it is the pirate's choice to steal content."

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About the Author

Richard Leadbetter avatar

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.


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