Ingenious hobbyists mod the PS4 so that it can run Linux

Just about every gaming console has two types of community around it: One is the gaming community, which plays games, and the other, is the hobbyist community, which runs software on these consoles that they were not designed for.

Simply put, these consoles were made to play games, but hobbyists use that processing power to do something else, just for the fun of it. They may run emulators, or maybe even install an entirely separate operating system. The DS, the 3DS, the PS3, the PSP, the PS Vita and just about every other console has a hobbyist community, but Sony has learned from its previous consoles and has enforced strict safeguards so that homebrew cannot be run on the PS4.

But with time, exploits do come to the surface, and now, utilizing one such exploit, a group named failOverflow has successfully installed Linux on the PS4 (Which was once a feature on the PS3, then removed and promptly came back with efforts from the homebrew community). Basically, they utilized an exploit in the PS4’s browser, which allows them to take control of the system with the help of a special webpage, and after identifying and using vulnerabilities in other parts of the system, the group set about installing Linux onto the locked-down system.

However, this technique is currently only usable on firmware 1.76, whereas the latest software version is 3.11. Plus, since Sony locks down just about every online activity if you don’t update, you have no choice (Unless you are okay with your PS4 not being able to connect to PSN).

Of course, this does trigger a feeling of deja-vu. The thing is, Sony released the PS3 with Linux compatibility, but without any reason removed it later on. It didn’t matter, because those in the homebrew community published rootkits of the PS3, enabling the user to install Linux no matter what firmware they are on. Sony later sued the people behind the rootkit, causing the community to resent Sony. Many are making the argument that since they own the consoles, they should be legally able to do whatever they want with it. This is the argument that many have used to defend things like car mods. But Sony too has a valid argument, that installation of custom firmware on the PS4 would increase rates of piracy, and developers would abandon the platform in droves. This can happen, since when the PSP was broken into, piracy rates soared, and developers started abandoning the platform. Later, only a few major developers and mainly Japanese companies continued to produce games for the platform. Sony would no doubt try its best to plug any vulnerabilities that the community can use to circumvent security restrictions.

But this is a really big breakthrough, and with time and effort, we may see more exploits appearing. What do you think? Can the hobbyist community keep up with Sony, and vice versa?

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