In quite possibly the longest time it took hackers to crack anything, four years after its launch, the PlayStation 3 has finally been cracked.
Best (if you’re into that sort of thing) or worst (if you’re Sony) of all, is that the crack is applied via a simple plug and play USB stick, complete with a GUI installer that doesn’t void warranties, is compatible with any region and model of the PS3 and claims to never brick the console. Other features include backing up games to an internal or external hard drive, which allows them to load faster, and the ability to install homebrew applications.
Oddly enough, the creators of the jailbreak are selling it for a price too exorbitant for something designed for piracy at $130.
Digital Foundry has an excellent article explaining the technical bits of the crack, which essentially boils down to the USB stick installing debug PS3 code into the retail firmware, which allows software “backups” to run from the hard drive:
This attack on PlayStation security consists of both software and hardware. A USB dongle is attached to the PS3, and pressing the eject button on the console while it cold-boots causes the code on the stick to override the console’s typical launch procedure. Based on views of the XMB seen in the now numerous YouTube videos, the dongle appears to inject elements from debug PS3 firmware onto the retail unit. The option to install PKG files, available only on development and test units, now works on the retail machine. From here, the main tool to “backing up” software is added to the machine.While you may not have heard of a PKG file before, the chances are that you’ve installed plenty of them on your PS3. Just about every kind of program you download from PSN is in the PKG container. Once downloaded, the PS3 decompresses the data and installs it onto your PS3. On development and test/reviewer units, so-called “unsigned code” is routinely distributed on disc, via download or on USB flash drives in PKG format. The only difference between this and a regular PSN download is that the code is not encrypted, allowing for easier distribution of unfinished or review copy games (only Sony’s mastering labs can encrypt, or “sign” code).The fact that the Install PKG option now appears on a retail unit gives us a strong indication as to how the new “Jailbreak” works as it’s almost certainly not present in the regular firmware. It suggests that elements of the bespoke system updates used on the debug PS3s are being injected into the memory of the retail unit.