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And just like that, the impossible (once again) becomes possible. A well-known hacking collective has managed to crack the security Sony put in place on their Playstation 4 console, leaving the system open to exploited and potentially makes illegally acquired software able to be played.

The hacking group fail0verflow is responsible for hacking Sony’s Linux-based kernel, and they made a video showcasing the Playstation 4 playing Pokemon. The customized version of the Linux OS that the group made is freely available to the public, but fail0verflow will not be releasing the actual exploit, saying that other hackers are free to try and replicate it due to the PS4 security being “crappy enough that you don’t need us for that”. I think we can reasonably expect other hackers to try their hand at cracking the console’s operating system in the near future.

This is hardly fail0verflow’s first rodeo, nor is this the first time a Sony console’s security was successfully circumvented by third parties. The hacking group already managed to crack the Playstation 3’s operating system back in 2011, with the group stating that the security for that console was “in shambles”, even though Sony stated that the jailbreak was easily patched out. Fail0verflow has said that they don’t condone piracy, but are doing this to show Sony that their software isn’t as secure as they like to think it is. This is also the reason why the group is not releasing details on the exploit to the public. Sony has not yet responded to the hack, but we will update you when and if they do. 

Quick Take

It was only a matter of time. Sony has shown in the past that they overestimate their ability to build a secure OS, and underestimates the ability of some individuals. The fact that it happened with most of their consoles is worrying, especially since the hackers keep saying that cracking the system is laughably easy to do. 

Chris Anderson

Staff Writer

I've been playing games since I was just barely able to walk, and I never really stopped playing them. When I'm not fulfilling my duties as senior staff writer and tech reviewer, I'm either working on music, producing one of two podcasts or doing freelance work.

  • Pooch Nasty

    I like that they’re not releasing the info, opting only to make the point publicly to show Sony they need to up their game. White hat hacking is always a good thing.

  • Take a modern kernel. Update it frequently. Apply the grsecurity patchset without uderef or stackleak (performance issues) but with all other non logging security features enabled
    Enable rbac
    Make your boot sector only writable by a single user (not even root)
    Bam, done, you have a secure kernel

  • Zepherdog

    Sorry I don’t speak Linuxim, care to explain what this exactly does in english?

    I only figured as far as having a kernel with certain security features enabled and writable by a single user (duh).

  • Modern kernel (keep it new)
    Update it frequently (security patches need to be done)
    GRsecurity patchset adds kernel level security features that don’t exist in the standard kernel. These protections are primarily to prevent chroot escapes (chroot is a form of a container that you can put users in with no performance loss), and memory protection
    uderef and stackleak features have too high of a performance cost, so they’re not worth doing (and really aren’t important)
    rbac (role based access control) will limit the file system access to only what is absolutely necessary for a given user
    writable only by a single user: There is something as the immutable bit, which makes it so a file system literally cannot change unless done through a specialized mechanism that allows changes in a highly limited fashion, such as through the package manager. You can realistically make the large majority of the console’s data be protected by the immutable bit.

  • Zepherdog

    That’s enlightening.

  • I feel like I didn’t explain RBAC enough

    It doesn’t just limit access to file systems. It limits *types* of access, in a very specific controlled form. When you first enable it, you put it in learning mode, and it learns what types of data to expect to go where.

  • Zepherdog

    I’m not very knowledgeable into the administration or security side of OS’ but I think I now understand a bit better how this may work.

    Thanks for the lecture.

  • If anyone wants to know more find me @techderp:disqus on twitter

  • plakia

    Nah, we should be allowed free reign over our hardware to begin with. How anyone could be happy paying for a DRM machine is beyond me.

  • Galbador

    Sony really should offer those guys a job in their security office, because those guys really know all the facts right.