Hackers seem close to publicly unlocking the Nintendo Switch

Enlarge / At the 34C3 conference, hacker Derrek shows the soldered FPGA setup that helped him find the decryption key necessary to unlock the system's binaries. (credit: Chaos Computer Club / YouTube)

When it comes to video game consoles, it's only a matter of time before even the most locked-down system gets unlocked by hackers for homebrew coding (and, potentially, piracy). The goal for most console makers is to hold off that day for as long as possible, to maintain their total control over the console's software ecosystem as long as they can.

For Nintendo and the nearly year-old Switch, that control seems in imminent danger of slipping away.

Hackers have been finding partial vulnerabilities in early versions of the Switch firmware throughout 2017. Their discoveries include a Webkit flaw that allowed for basic "user level" access to some portions of the underlying system and a service-level initialization flaw that gave hackers slightly more control over the Switch OS. But the potential for running arbitrary homebrew code on the Switch really started looking promising late last month, with a talk at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress (34C3) in Leipzig Germany. In that talk, hackers Plutoo, Derrek, and Naehrwert outlined an intricate method for gaining kernel-level access and nearly full control of the Switch hardware.

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