A conversation with the first PlayStation Vita hacker

In an exclusive talk with Crave, a person associated with the first group to hack the Sony PlayStation Vita tells us how and why it happened, and what to expect as they develop the exploit.

Christopher MacManus
Crave contributor Christopher MacManus regularly spends his time exploring the latest in science, gaming, and geek culture -- aiming to provide a fun and informative look at some of the most marvelous subjects from around the world.
Christopher MacManus
2 min read
Would a hacked PS Vita motivate you to buy one? Sony Computer Entertainment

Those hoping to see a PlayStation Vita hack could have their wishes answered in a few months. Some anonymous programmers announced they discovered an exploit allowing them application-level (userland) access into the Sony gaming device.

Before you get all excited about the idea of illegally downloading full PS Vita games, you should know that this purported hack can't grant such abilities. However, if the group of developers creates a loader, the hack could open the door for homebrew, and more importantly, emulation. Which means that one day the Vita could play Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Nintendo DS, Sega, and many other games, similar to a hacked PSP.

Crave reached out to "Yifanlu," one of the involved hackers, via a private IRC channel. The hacker described himself as a student with a hobby in reverse engineering, and said the hack, which exists in the "very early stages," took several months to discover. Finding it, however, allowed the group to run a memory dump to learn more about the Vita's brains.

What he says next might surprise you.

"As a developer, I am completely against piracy," Yifanlu told Crave when queried about his intentions for the PS Vita hack. "My tools, when released, cannot be used for that purpose."

Unsurprisingly, Yifanlu's further comments about his motivations echo Vita sentiments seen around the Web. "I got a Vita on launch date because I believe the system has a big potential, and I still do, but right now, there really isn't that many good new games out," Yifanlu noted to Crave. "I thought I could juice some use out of this $300 device if I can run homebrew on it."

Sony supercharges Vita at Gamescom (pictures)

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"I'm glad to say that one of the biggest 'advantage' of having a userland exploit (rather than the more desirable kernel exploit), is that it is impossible to run backup/pirated/copied Vita games using this flaw I've found," said Yifanlu.

When asked for proof of the exploit, Yifanlu told Crave, "I could [proabably] get a 'pretty' hello world done by next week. Right now, the hello world can't be seen on screen but is observable indirectly and we know that code is running."

Any interested parties wishing to learn more about the progress of the Vita hack should keep up with Yifanlu's Web site (and Twitter account) and his related forum topic. Developers hungry to help can check out his Vita hack Github code repository for more details.