Crackers this week claimed to have successfully ripped out the latest Sony PlayStation Portable firmware and replaced it with an earlier version of the code containing fewer anti-piracy features.
The procedure exploits a recently discovered buffer overflow exploit which allows code to be incorporated into image data. When the PSP attempts to display the picture, it writes data beyond the space reserved for the image and into memory used by executable code. The code inserted into the picture file is then run.
The software, posted on the internet yesterday, forces the PSP to run Sony's firmware 1.5 updater, replacing firmware 2.0 with the older code.
One poster joyfully claimed the console is now "wide open".
Numerous postings on PSP-cracking websites claim the procedure works despite a system crash most of the way through the installation process. Some posters have even claimed to have re-applied firmware 2.0 successfully and downgraded to firmware 1.5 a second time, again without a hitch.
Sony released the PSP's firmware 2.0 this summer, first in Japan and later in the US. The consumer electronics giant launched the handheld games console in Europe on 1 September, and all European machines sold through official channels since then also include firmware 2.0.
In addition to patching a number of security holes then being exploited by crackers, along with tweaks to the console's existing copy-protection technologies, firmware 2.0 brings web browsing to the console, along with support for a range of new media types including iTunes' AAC (part of MPEG 4) and Sony's ATRAC 3 Plus, the latter supporting DRM, though the AAC component does not.
Curiously, the arrival of the crack code was followed almost immediately by a spat between different PSP cracking groups, each claiming to have come up with the procedure.
Meanwhile, Sony's own PSP coders are almost certainly nailing down the way the crack works and are likely to block it in a future firmware update. ®