Hackers Inch Ever Closer to Unlocking the Nintendo Switch

Hackers Inch Ever Closer to Unlocking the Nintendo Switch

Deeper than just a firmware hack.

When a console's firmware gets hacked, companies sigh everywhere. It's a bad thing for them—they no longer have control over their product, in a way. Just last month, news arose of the PlayStation 4 having an exploit prime for jailbreaking. For the past year, the Nintendo Switch has remained relatively unscathed. Until now.

As spotted by Ars Technica, hackers have made progress not just on cracking the firmware of the Nintendo Switch, but the hardware itself too. The latter part is a huge feat, as hackers Derrek, Plutoo, and Naehrwert explain from the 34th Chaos Communication Congress (34C3) in Leipzig, Germany at the end of December. The hackers cracked the system's decryption key, which is essential for unlocking essential system files. In layman speak: Nintendo just said "uh-oh."

It's not the sort of issue that can be remedied by a software update, say for example a patch for PlayStation 4 that fixes a new known entrypoint for hackers. It's a weakness that works on the Switch's lowest level of system operation, in a way that "can't be patched (in currently released Switches)," according to hacking collective Fail0verflow on Twitter. As per Ars Technica's story, "Fail0verflow's statement suggests its exploit could work on all Switches currently available in the wild and could be counteracted only if Nintendo made changes at the factory production level." That accounts for the big "oh no" that's likely on Nintendo's part.

What such hacks are working towards aren't to pirate Nintendo Switch games, which have their own layers of security. Instead, it's directed more towards running homebrew code on the system. In the meantime, given that the Nintendo Switch is selling far past expectations, if hackers are successful, it might spell trouble regarding how some fiddle with the hardware.

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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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