Throughout the lifespan of the PSP, Sony was forced to wage an unending war with hackers. Almost from the moment it launched, users were finding exploits that allowed them to force the machine to do all kinds of things Sony never intended. Most prominently, to run ROM files of classic games, lending the handheld an unpublicized reputation as the gaming device of choice for those who wanted to enjoy Super Nintendo games on the go. Though this did boost the PSP’s popularity, Sony adamantly opposed the nascent hacker community it had inadvertently spawned, and continually released patches to plug holes in the system’s various vulnerabilities.
Thus, when it came time to build a new handheld, Sony pulled out all the stops to prevent hackers from gaining a foothold on the Vita. From the system’s omnipresent online connectivity to the automatic updates pushed to both games and the system itself, Sony is ruling the handheld with an iron fist.
Of course, one can never truly stop a determined hacker, and recently the hacking community discovered vulnerabilities in two downloadable PSP titles (MotorStorm: Arctic Edge and Hot Shots Tennis: Get A Grip) that allowed users to force the Vita to run unsigned code. Proof of concept exists as this video of hacker-favorite PC shooter DOOM running on a Vita.
Sony immediately pulled both PSP titles from the PlayStation Network Store until it could patch the flaws. As of yesterday, both titles have returned to the Store and the Vita has received a new firmware update (1.67 for those keep score at home) that purportedly removes the exploitable code contained in each.
As we said before however, you just can’t keep a good hacker down. In response to Sony’s new firmware, the Vita hacking community at Wololo.net (the people responsible for the above-pictured hack) have released a new video of DOOM running on the handheld, only this footage comes from a Vita running the new 1.67 firmware. The hackers claim to have found another game that allows them to exploit the Vita, but for the moment they’re keeping the specifics of this particular hack to themselves.
Regardless of your opinion on this kind of hacking, this episode highlights the fact that Sony is unable to escape the grasp of users who will go to great lengths to co-opt the company’s latest gaming machines. While it would seem reasonable for the company to simply turn a blind eye and enjoy the added functionality these hackers add to the Vita, Sony, as a multi-national media and electronics conglomerate, just can’t abide by anything that reeks of IP infringement or unintended electronics usage. Sony has to fight back against these kinds of efforts, even if doing so is as pointless as that time Sisyphus tried to push a rock up a hill.