Release: VitaRW gives us write access to Vita’s protected partitions (where’s my downgrader?)
Major_Tom just released VitaRW, a tool that gives you Read/Write access to the Vita protected partitions (e.g. vs0, sa0, os0, etc…)
What is VitaRW?
An important disclaimer here: used improperly, this tool could let you badly damage your PS Vita, beyond repair. If you mess up with the wrong files, you’ll end up with a permanent brick and your PS Vita will become an expensive paperweight.
If you read the paragraph above, read it again. Then read this: this release is for developers/tinkerers who are aware of the risks. Most people should be patiently waiting for actual tools that have been vetted and beta tested.
With that out of the way, what does VitaRW let you do, technically?
Well, here’s what we know about some of these partitions (from Vitadevwiki):
- os0 found on the NAND is where the “main” OS (aka CoreOS) files are including all the kernel libraries and the most important user libraries. There’s always two copies of this for redundancy and updating will only update the inactive partition and the active flag is swapped.
- sa0 found on the NAND is the “bulky” data like fonts and handwriting information. Why is it a separate partition? Because it makes update files smaller. Your “systemdata” PUP provides the update for this partition.
- vs0 found on the NAND is the rest of the OS including all the system apps, the main shell, and the remaining user libraries
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how dangerous it could be to change these files on your console. With that being said, according to Major_Tom, SMOKE has started modifying some files in vs0 and did not run into any big issue. Then again, proceed at your own risk.
Several people are speculating about what could be done with this.
A PS Vita Downgrader?
One of the main expectations is that this could lead to creating a downgrader for the PS Vita (and for example bring our friends back from 3.61 to 3.60). There’s lots of wishful thinking here and just because we have access on these partitions on 3.60 does not mean hackers are now magically able to craft valid update packages. Sony have stepped their game up since the old PSP days and I’d be surprised if it was easy to trick the PS Vita into a downgrade. (Remember, just because a device can decrypt packages doesn’t always mean it can encrypt them back).
Conversely, this could give us possibilities to spoof firmware 3.61 from firmware 3.60, and give some people access to the PSN again. That actually feels more likely to me than a downgrader, although I’d personally warn people against accessing Sony’s services (including but not limited to the PSN) with a hacked PS Vita. You would be giving them legit reasons to ban your account.
Getting back our PSP Emulator Kernel hacks
KanadeEngel has also tried replacing the PSP Emulator with an older version. Doing so would bring back some of the old PSP Kernel exploits to Vita 3.60, meaning tools such as ARK or TN-V could be brought to the console.. Sadly, KAnadeEngel’s confirmed that the PSP Emulator on the PS Vita refuses to run if the versions don’t match. This could be an easy patch but needs to be investigated more. Arguably, it might be easier to just patch the PSP emu in RAM from HENkaku, to bypass the need for a PSP exploit in the first place.
In other words, this release opens lots of opportunities, but do not expect a downgrader just now, to me that’s just wishful thinking.
You can Download VitaRW from the developer’s github here. Major_Tom intentionally did not include a binary release (a .vpk) so that only people with the appropriate dev environment play with this, with the intent to help filter out “stupid mistakes” for the time being (until someone releases a compiled binary, that is <– update: well, I wasn’t even done writing this article that .vpks started surfacing on various sites. Handle with care!).
Looking for more? We have a full list of Emulators for the PS Vita, an up to date list of Homebrews for the PS Vita, and an All in one guide for Vita 3.60 describing everything you can do with your hacked PS Vita.