After just over two years on the market, the PlayStation 4’s walls of security have been breached in a very significant manner, with the team of hackers at fail0verflow – noted for their success in hacking the PlayStation 3, in particular – able to run a heavily modified version of Linux on the console.
With the complexity of modern console software, which invariably leads to a number of vulnerabilities, and the Windows PC-like hardware that Sony used as their starting point for the system, it was always more of a question of when, rather than if. However, in a presentation that showcases the hack, it’s also shown just how different the PS4’s hardware actually is from a PC, with a custom southbridge designed by Marvell that deviates significantly from industry standards and access to the HDD actually handled using USB protocols, rather than SATA.
While fail0verflow have made their work-in-progress Linux port available, this isn’t of much use to the vast majority of users. The vulnerability that they exploited within Firmware 1.76 has since been patched out, but in a follow up post, they point to the system’s open source roots in FreeBSD and Webkit as relatively easy targets to find other exploits. With Linux also comes the possibility of porting SteamOS to the system, once they have managed to solve the problem of getting the GPU up and running.
Of course, there’s also the lingering shadow and risk of this leading to piracy on the console, but as a group, that isn’t their focus. In fact, they say that “if we can get people interested in running Linux on the PS4 over using the native OS, we can redirect efforts away from reverse engineering the original software infrastructure (which is what the piracy guys need, and they inevitably leech off of those efforts) to Linux (which is completely useless for piracy).”
Sony will naturally be very wary of that threat, so it will be interesting to see how they attempt to thwart hacking efforts such as these going forward.