New Homebrew PS4 feat hints at similar PS5 hacks to come

Enlarge / Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Andrew Cunningham

Hackers have released details of a new exploit that installs homemade, custom firmware on PS4 consoles running relatively recent firmware. Additionally, the details of the exploit suggest that similar homebrew capabilities may soon be available on some versions of the PlayStation 5.

The new exploit is based on a known bug in the same way that the PS4 WebKit implementation uses font-faces. This exploit on PS4 was released to the public in October as a proof of concept after a similar bug was found in Apple’s Safari WebKit implementation in September.

On the PS4, the full exploit can now be triggered by visiting a specially formatted JavaScript website via the PS4 web browser, allowing the system to run kernel-level code that bypasses the usual console security protections. From there, the exploit can read files from an inserted USB drive and install homebrew software, including existing PS4 custom firmware.

Specter, a known member of the console hacking scene, posted a video of the operational exploit on Sunday. As of Monday, the files required for the exploit were posted on GitHub with step-by-step instructions.


Not the first, not the last?

This is not the first time that homebrew code has been run on the PS4. An earlier console exploit released in March worked on consoles with firmware up to version 7.55, which was released by Sony about seven months earlier in August 2020. This week’s operational version, on the other hand, works up to firmware version 9.00. , which was released less than three months ago at the end of September.

Users of a fully updated PS4 will not be able to use the exploit, which has already been fixed in version 9.03 of the PS4 firmware released on December 1. In fact, hackers suggest on GitHub that examining the differences between these two newer firmware versions helped them figure out how to make the exploit work.

The young age of this latest firmware patch, however, means that newly retailed PS4 consoles purchased today may still have the older version 9.00 firmware. This could be important to homebrew fans, as there is currently no known way to downgrade a PS4 to an older version of firmware to use patched exploits.

On Github, hackers note that the same underlying bug “works on some PS5 firmwares; however, there is no known strategy to exploit it at this time. On Twitter, the hacker Znullptr (who also contributed to this latest exploit) adds that “the kernel exploit also affects Playstation5” but that a full exploit is not ready for this console because “the main developer did not currently have any PS5 console” . .

The achievement’s launch follows last week’s award of two bug bounties to the HackerOne PlayStation account, including a massive $ 10,000 reward paid to Andy “TheFlow0” Nguyen (who recently participated in Discover decrypting keys for the PS5). While the details of this reward were not disclosed, the scale of the payment suggests the revelation of a major security flaw that could affect recent PlayStation consoles.

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