Huge news on the hacking front as two different hacking groups have recently individually released unique (yet use a similar exploit) methods on how to exploit the Nintendo Switch. While hacking has become fairly run-of-the-mill in the field of electronics, this time, it’s different. And it’s VERY bad news for Nintendo.
The exploit discovered revolves around the hardware, not the software, in the Nintendo Switch. Meaning this can’t be something that is patched out via an update. This is an exploit that every single one of the nearly 15 million Nintendo Switches out in the wild will be completely able to run.
More specifically, the flaw revolves around the Switch’s NVidia Tegra Processor’s USB Recovery Mode (RCM), where you can overflow the data using another computer tethered via the USB connection. This then bypasses the security surrounding the Boot ROM, allowing the user to run whatever program they wish. Hackers can now transform the basic architecture of the Switch from the standard “Horizon” OS to Linux, opening unending possibilities.
While this was hinted at in early January of 2018, this is the first hard evidence of progress with specific details of how the exploit functions and what is able to be accomplished. Gamers outside of being knee deep in the hacking scene won’t stand a chance of successfully pulling off the exploit in its current state.
It requires shorting the number 10 pin in the Switch’s right-hand JoyCon connector. This initiates the Tegra chip’s recovery mode, and this is where the magic happens.
According to the hacker group “Fail0verflow”, “Since the vulnerability occurs very early in the boot process, it allows extraction of all device data and secrets, including the Boot ROM itself and all cryptographic keys”. What does this mean in somewhat simplified English? When the chip is in recovery mode, the data overflow from the tethered PC allows hackers the ability to gain full control of the OS and install external Operating Systems and programs.
The other hacking group, ReSwitched, decided to share its breakdown of what it’s calling the “Fusée Gelée coldboot vulnerability” this week, ahead of a more detailed explanation on June 15.
What’s this all mean for Nintendo? And what does it mean for Gamers?
There is nothing Nintendo can do to fix this bug on current Switch consoles because of it being a hardware exploit. All they can do is make a new revision of the Switch. With all this information coming to light here, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if they were to announce a hardware revision sooner than later. This is a HUGE deal.
The silver lining good news for Nintendo is at the present time, the current exploit being used is extremely anti-user friendly.
Fail0verflow, explained how it’s easy to break platforms like the Switch. “We already caused temporary damage to one LCD panel with bad power sequencing code,” they said. “If your Switch catches on fire or turns into an Ouya, it’s not our fault.”
But, as we all know, in time, this process will be broken down, simplified and widely accessible to all.
What’s this all mean for gamers? And why could it be a bad thing for us?
I don’t condone piracy, there are plenty of positives from various users improving the platform that Nintendo has failed to do. Back up saves? Already been proven to work, but Nintendo has closed the gate for gamers to utilize. Internet browser? Netflix? There’s so much that people want, not the least of which is a proper Virtual Console. Nintendo has failed to provide many basic needs to their customers who have purchased the device. I’ve always been on the side of if you buy something, you own it and can do with it what you’d like, within legal reason, of course.
This goes far beyond the piracy issue. Sure some people will hack their system to steal games. The major problem comes in with multiplayer hacking, and subsequent cheating. Ruining the integrity of the online infrastructure by being able to manipulate the rules in a specific direction. By having the ability to hack the Switch out there, it not only affects users who choose to hack it, but also those who choose not to. This is where my concern is, and this is where the biggest fault in all of this lies.
Where do you stand on the progress of hacking the Switch?