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October 24, 2012

Trouble Ahead for Sony: PlayStation 3 LV0 Decryption Keys Now in Hackers' Hands

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

It wasn't so long ago when the PlayStation Network found itself under attack from hackers, which not only left Sony with plenty of egg on its face leading to an extraordinarily awkward apology at E3, but also some lawsuits in its wake. Now, Sony's lost something very important to hackers' efforts again following a recent attack by a hacker crew calling itself "The Three Musketeers": their LV0 keys.

The LV0 key, published by the hacker crew, allows users in the know to access one of the most sensitive parts of the PlayStation 3's command structure, the second step in the "chain of trust" process. With the LV0 key in hand, users will be able to modify their PS3 systems in a fashion that Sony itself would never want users able to do, including being able to decrypt security updates and build those updates into unauthorized custom firmware packages. Hackers and modders alike would be able to contravene restrictions Sony places on the console and open up their own pathways.

Image via Shutterstock

The Three Musketeers, for their part, said that they'd had the LV0 code for some time, but only publicly released it following word that a different hacking group planned to sell a line of custom firmware for the PS3 called BlueDiskCFW, a move the Musketeers seemed to find distasteful, saying in a public Pastie post: "This is neither about drama nor E-fame nor 'OMG WE HAZ BEEN FIRST', we just thought you should know that we're disappointed in certain people. You can be sure that if it wouldn't have been for this leak, this key would never have seen the light of day. Only the fear of our work being used by others to make money out of it has forced us to release this now."

While this doesn't pose so much of a risk to regular users--it's not like credit card numbers were leaked--it does pose something of a risk for those who want to modify their PS3 to play pirated games or the like. Additionally, it does a lot of damage to Sony's efforts to control what the end users do with their PS3 units, which some might well think was for the best anyway. Naturally, Sony will likely have fallback measures in place--releasing software updates in a fog of obfuscation, for example--but it will be much more of a fight for Sony to keep its desired control in place than it was previously.

Whether the PS3 becomes a pirate wonderland or not ultimately remains to be seen, but it's clear that there will always be a certain faction of users who believe that they bought their device, and as such, should have full access to its functions, whether or not the original device's maker agrees.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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