iPhone hacker George Hotz, aka “GeoHot,” was able to finally crack the PlayStation 3… three years after the system’s release. He praised the hardware for its security, but now that Sony has responded by removing the Linux capabilities of the PlayStation 3 entirely, the hacker has decided to fight back, warning gamers not to update their systems until he finds a way to keep the Other OS option on the PlayStation 3.
The problem for Sony is that GeoHot is now threatening to release custom firmware for the system, which is quite the escalation from what was previously available from the hacking community. “I never intended to touch [custom firmware], but if that’s how you want to play…” Hotz wrote on his blog. Sony may have done much more harm than good with its April 1 update.
Hotz is skeptical about the reasons for the update. “What security concerns? It’s not like the exploit can be run even close to without the users knowledge. You have to open the f**king thing up. How could this harm users?” He points out that the blog post doesn’t give users any positive gains from the update, simply threatens what they’ll lose if they don’t. Urging gamers to wait on the update, he says he’s working on a workaround that will allow you to continue to play games online as well as keep your Linux partition.
“The PlayStation 3 is the only product I know that loses features throughout its lifecycle. Software PS2 emulation, SACD playback, and OtherOS support are all just software switches you can flip. It’s unbelievable you would go and flip one, not just on new boxes you are shipping, but on tens of millions already in the field.”
He points out, one more time, that this isn’t about piracy. “Some people seem to think CFW will enable some sort of piracy. It won’t. It’ll just be a custom version of 3.21 that doesn’t lose OtherOS support,” he points out. “Hacking isn’t about getting what you didn’t pay for, it’s about making sure you do get what you did.”
He then questions the right of companies like Sony to remove advertised features from hardware after it has been sold. He asks what would happen if Apple removed Web browsing from the iPhone if an exploit was found in Safari. “Legally, they may be within their right to do so, but we have to show them it’s the wrong move for the future of the product and the company.”
This is a fight Sony can’t win
The wins Hotz has enjoyed in playing with the system were enough to make Sony nervous, and taking away Linux hasn’t made many gamers happy. Catching the interest of someone who clearly has both the time and the knowledge to open the system wider isn’t likely to end well for Sony; Hotz may not be interested in piracy, but the more capabilities put into the hands of the cracking community the more likely that outcome is going to be. Sony knows just how damaging piracy can be to a platform—the PSP has suffered from that problem almost since launch—but taking away features and claiming security concerns may have simply given the issue more attention than it deserved.
This is a story we’ll be keeping an eye on.
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