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News: PS3 protection cracked? Maybe...
Created: 28-08-2010 16:37 Edited: 28-08-2010 19:58

PS3 Protection Cracked? Maybe...

You may have read about the new USB device which apparently allows you to "backup" PS3 games. Interesting idea, but for how long?

I have done some very quick research into this device and it seems a little too good to be true - which makes me instantly suspicious. It is a USB device so does not require you to open your console and simply plugs into the front. It is being distributed all over the world but comes from a company calling themselves PS Jailbreak. Here is the info I have found about them:

  • They hide their location, domain ownership, technical and admin information to prevent people finding out who they are, using a service from Hiding their identities does not fill me with confidence so don't expect any kind of follow up if you get a device which doesn't work or any support if they suddenly disappear with your wad of money.
  • Their Website is hosted by - a Ukrainian hosting company who don't seem to have quite set up their server properly (see Another warning sign.
  • Their UK distributor charges 89.99 UK Pounds for one and they advise against buying cheaper copies! At that price, could this be a case of making as much money as quickly as possible before the device is officially outlawed or Sony stops it working? Maybe.

The inside of the device itself looks like a microcontroller hand soldered onto a basic USB connector (see here). It has already been cloned by some Chinese companies so knock-offs are already being sold making you wonder if what you order from a local supplier will be an 'original' or not. I use the term 'original' lightly as theories at the moment suggest both the hardware and software has been ripped or reverse engineered from official Sony devices used to repair PS3s which have corrupt or broken firmware installed. This would make their legality VERY unlikely indeed, even if they try and promote them for 'backup' and 'homebrew' use only. If they contain ripped proprietory Sony libraries or code then I would suggest they have already broken the law. A court order has already gone through in Australia to prevent their sale until a proper hearing next week. There are a few issues when using them too:

  • They require the user to interrupt the normal boot up and place the PS3 into a debug mode by pressing eject at a crucial point during startup. I expect this is so it can inject its own code into the boot process.
  • The PS3 still only supports FAT32 formatted external hard drives which have a file size limit of 4GB. If the disc you are backing up contains files which are larger than 4GB you must back it up to the internal hard drive of your PS3. How many blu-ray sized games can YOU back up to your internal hard drive? Not too many I suspect.
  • The device is said to block official system updates too (probably to protect itself from being blocked by Sony). Sony often prevent users from using PSN or connecting online until essential updates are installed to keep the network secure and stable. Not to mention future games relying on features introduced in newer firmware updates. Using one of these USB gizmos will therefore probably prevent future games and also online play when the next big update is released - which I personally think is a major part of modern gaming.

My view...

There is nothing I would like more than to be able to write homebrew games for the PS3. The problem with using one of these USB devices is that you would still need to use Sony's development tools. So unless you pay for a dev kit (in which case you wouldn't need one of these USB gadgets) you are breaking the law. Selling these devices for 'homebrew' use is therefore not a valid excuse.

No matter how these items are marketed you know they will not be used for backing up games people own either. They will be used for piracy. This is a slippery slope and a quick way to destroy new game development and shorten the life of a console. I would expect no PS3 owner would want that.

I would totally expect Sony to be able to tell which consoles are being switched into debug mode and running non-standard firmware. How long do you think it will take them to remotely disable those PS3s, ban them from online use, and/or block the associated PSN accounts? Not long I expect. Remember Microsoft's tactics when the XBox360 was cracked? They waited a year giving the pirates a false sense of security and then bricked all the consoles in one go. A good move by MS, and a brilliant way to instantly sell lots more consoles to those people with lots of games and a brick to play them on. I hope Sony do the same and all those suckers forking out 90 quid to play copied games will end up having to buy new PS3s too. Cha-ching!

I just want to remind everyone that I don't work for Sony, but I do write software. Piracy destroys small developers who are usually the ones who come with innovative and new ideas.

Update: It would appear that someone posting on the German site has sniffed the communication between the PS Jailbreak and the PS3 and analysed the device itself. They say it is basically an ATMega microprocessor with software USB emulation. It DOES contain the ID of the official Sony 'Jig' module which will hopefully be enough to prove that a proprietary Sony device was illegally reverse engineered to make this device.

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