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Hackers decode X360 discs, but copy-protection remains intact

Not such a major step forward.

Only weeks after the launch of the Xbox 360 console, a Dutch hacker group has worked out how to "dump" the contents of game discs for the system, allowing them to be copied and examined - but as yet, there is no way to run copied games.

A group describing itself as Team PI Coder has posted details of the file system for the game discs, along with a program to extract files from them and example source code, to several sites on the Internet.

While the move is being widely reported as a major step towards cracking the Xbox 360's security and creating mod chips or "soft mod" systems, which requires no physical chip and became popular on both the original Xbox and the PlayStation Portable, Microsoft is unlikely to be greatly worried by this development.

At present, there is no way to run copied games or any form of unauthorised code on the Xbox 360, and the cracking of the disc format is a relatively simple move - since the Xbox 360 merely uses a modified version of the discs used by the original Xbox, whose format is widely understood.

In fact, although several teams around the world are known to be working on breaking the security of the Xbox 360, so far little progress has been made in this regard. The original Xbox was one of the most widely hacked consoles ever, thanks to its PC-style architecture and weak security - both things that have changed on the Xbox 360.

Microsoft claims to have learned its lessons from the Xbox and has implemented far more stringent security measures in the Xbox 360 - some of which would have been impossible on the original console, due to its use of off-the-shelf components.

However, even if the Xbox 360 presents a major challenge to hackers, history suggests that it's unlikely that it will remain secure forever. Most popular consoles have been cracked and used to run homebrew and pirate content within a few months of release - with the most recent to see this treatment being Sony's PlayStation Portable, for which a wide range of unauthorised applications and games are now available, as well as pirate versions of official games.

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