Oct. 24, 2012 at 6:46 PM ET
Sony's efforts to control what can and can't run on the PlayStation 3 home gaming console may have been blown out of the water for the last time.
Hackers have published a cryptographic key that will make it much easier for owners to modify their devices. However, the move could also make PS3s vulnerable to security breaches and allow users to play pirated games.
A group going by the name of the "Three Musketeers" said they'd had the "LV0" key for a while, but have released it only now after learning that another group of hackers was using it to build and sell firmware called BlueDiskCFW, technology blog Ars Technica reported.
"If it wouldn't have been for this leak, this key would never have seen the light of day," the Three Tuskateers wrote when they released the key, a PlayStationLifeStyle.net post said. ""Only the fear of our work being used by others to make money out of it has forced us to release this now."
With the LV0 key, PS3 users can decode future security updates and change the firmware to fully install and play a game from the console's hard drive instead of the game's disk, for instance.
Some gaming blogs are referring to this as "the final hack" in a long battle between Sony and customers over how the product should, and should not be, used.
"The reveal of the LV0 key basically means that any system update released by Sony going forward can be decrypted with little or no effort whatsoever," wrote Richard Leadbetter in a Eurogamer post. "Options Sony has in battling this leak is limited — every PS3 out there needs to be able to decrypt any firmware download package in order for the console to be updated."
Sony has yet to comment on the leak, but if the past is any predictor, the company will not pleased.
The electronics maker has a history of coming down hard on hackers who jailbreak its machines, as evidenced by the lawsuit it brought against hacker George Hotz in 2011 after he published PlayStation 3 root keys.
The efforts to sue Hotz backfired. He settled out of court with Sony, but not before the hacktivist group Anonymous had attacked Sony websites in his behalf, and a still-unknown cybercriminal used the Anonymous attack as cover to compromise 70 million accounts on the private PlayStation Network.
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