Hacking consoles: a learning journey (part 1)
Note from Wololo: scene member TheOct0 wanted to learn about how console hacking “works”. I suggested he started with “older” consoles such as the PSP in order to get the basic ideas without having to fight with all the modern security requiring more advanced techniques, and he offered to share his experience here on the blog. Although we can’t predict how far he’ll go (these things take a lot of effort and dedication), we both hope his writeup will help others who are interested in learning console security but never know where to start.
It’s no secret that exploits, hacks, and the whole homebrew scene is a very complex world.
Usually, most people will eagerly wait for their favourite console to get hacked, sometimes for months, or even years in the hope to get the most out of their hardware. Some people will maybe put some effort into trying some things out, like it usually is the case with gamesave exploits, but ultimately leave their findings somewhere on a forum in the hope that someone will be able to make something out of it. The third category, however, is made of the ones who keep the scene alive. The ones who take matters into their own hands. Those are the true heroes of the hacking scene. I could name a few of them, such as TheFlow, Rinnegatamante or SciresM, but there are plenty more out there that, those past few years, have accomplished a lot of things on a variety of different hardware.
So, you may be wondering why I wrote that paragraph of introduction. After all, you’re on Wololo, and you know why you’re here, right? Well, I have decided to switch categories for myself.
I, just like most of us, am of the people that wait eagerly for that new 3.70 Vita hack [Note from Wololo: the 3.70 hack was released after this article was initially written but before publication] , or this sweet new release of Atmosphère on the switch. And, just like most of us (I assume), I admire those who can reverse-engineer all those consoles and bend various security and firmware updates to their will. Ever since I used a flashcart for my Nintendo DS, ever since I hacked my old PSP back when it was the hottest console on the market, I’ve been wondering how those people do it. And today, I’ll do my best to get started with it, and I’ll bring you on the ride.
Now, I am aware that one does not simply find the next PS4 kernel exploit. I am also aware that most of the ones who do are computer science graduates, and that I’ve only programmed some things in my spare time, as a hobby. But it is my firm belief that, with enough research, diligence, and with the help of a comfortable desk chair, anyone can achieve some degree of success in what they start.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t so sure where to start with all of this. I’ve done some research, and, as far as I’m aware, there isn’t an easy way of getting started. Most of the writeups that are found online are written for people who already understand hacking to some extent, and that wouldn’t be my case. That led me to the conclusion that, since you need to “be the change you want to see in the world”, I could be the one to write this easy-to-access documentation on hacking.
As an early disclaimer, I don’t expect this to be fun, or easy. It’s going to be a learning experience, as I’ll be starting way back in the early days of hacking, and gradually making my way to the more recent stuff. I just hope that this whole adventure will make it easier for newcomers to get onto the scene, and that more people like me will be able to get started eventually.
In the end, I hope this small introduction to this upcoming pseudo-series has piqued you interest. I am planning on primarily using Debian Linux for various reasons [Note: I quickly changed my mind, see part 2 for my reasoning], and I will be setting up a GitHub repository with everything I do here if people are interested and ask for it.
As a closing note, I feel like I should be giving you some sort of idea of who I am. I am not a teacher, or a computer science student. I am just a regular guy in front of a computer, who happens to be interested in video gaming consoles and the hacking scene. I will stumble, I won’t necessarily be the best learner (or teacher, for that matter), but I will do my best to transcribe what I learn here, in the hope that maybe, one day, someone will try and learn from what I wrote. And who knows, maybe some day I’ll even find some exploits of my own!
Next post in this Series: Hacking Consoles: a learning journey Part 2