Hackers find first Xbox 360 cracks

First cracks give glimpse of game code, but the hacks don't let you run pirated games or homebrewed code on the new console--yet.

Joris Evers Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Joris Evers covers security.
Joris Evers
2 min read
Only weeks after the introduction of the Xbox 360, hackers appear to have cracked their way into the software that runs the Microsoft game console.

A group called "Team PI Coder" claims to have found a way to extract the source files of Xbox 360 games as they get loaded onto the console.

The glimpse at game code represents the first move toward hacking the Microsoft device, said Steve Manzuik, a security product manager at eEye Digital Security.

"All that has been done is that they have figured out the file system, which is not much different than the original Xbox file system," Manzuik said. "I would consider it a game hack, not really an Xbox 360 hack. But (it is) the beginning steps of one."

Team PI Coder has posted details on several games to the Web along with an "extractor tool" that could potentially be used to copy games, according Xbox-Scene.com, an enthusiast Web site.

"Downloading such releases is illegal, and you can't do anything with them yet," Xbox-Scene.com said in a posting.

The copies are useless, at least for now, because further Xbox safeguards prevent playing of the copies, and the games also won't run on a PC.

In a text file describing the extracted data, Team PI Coder said that not much can be done with the files. "You can't run these dumps yet, but you will be able to sooner or later," it wrote in the note. "So the first task is done. We hope this encourages all hackers, coders and crackers out there to take up the challenge."

Microsoft wouldn't comment on the hacking work by Team PI Coder, but a company representative said the recently launched Xbox 360 is well-protected. "We have made improvements on both the hardware and software side to protect Xbox 360 against piracy and modding (modification of components)," the company said in a statement on Friday.

"With Xbox 360, we had the benefit of learning from our experiences on Xbox. This allowed us to identify points of weakness that were exploited by hackers in the first generation and to eliminate those vulnerabilities in Xbox 360," the Microsoft representative said.

The first-generation Xbox was a popular hacker target. Add-on chips for the console--so-called "mod chips"--let consumers play pirated discs and other applications on their consoles. In addition, some groups claimed they could run Linux on the Xbox. Such hacks have yet to surface for the Xbox 360.