No matter how hard Sony and other console makers try to lock down their hardware, industrious hackers seem to always find some way to run their own homebrew code on the systems they buy. The PlayStation Vita appears to be the latest system to have its software protections fall, with the announcement of the Usermode Vita Loader project (UVL).
Homebrew coder Yifan Lu, whose previous hacks include a method to run any original PlayStation game on the Xperia Play phones, is currently looking for developers to help create a full-fledged homebrew code loader for the Vita, after finding an unspecified exploit that gets around the system’s requirement that program code be digitally signed by Sony. The incomplete project currently compiles, but is having trouble unlocking certain Vita memory addresses needed to get code to run.
Vita users can already run some homebrew programs using the Vita Halfbyte Loader (VHBL), a port of the popular PSP homebrew hack which takes advantage of a vulnerability in certain downloadable PSP games. But while VHBL only lets players run homebrew code designed for the PSP, the UVL should eventually allow homebrew developers to unlock the full power of the hardware by writing their own native Vita code.
Lu is quick to point out that his exploit will not allow players to run commercial Vita games, which are encrypted and will be impossible to load with the exploit. But that doesn’t mean the hack won’t attract the attention of Sony, which has done its best to shut down previous homebrew hacks through firmware updates.
And Sony may be able to protect against the current homebrew effort before it even gets off the ground. As Lu notes in a recent tweet, “it would take at least months and most [likely] half a year to get something working. At any point Sony could close it.”