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Nintendo's Switch can be hacked to run custom apps and games

April 24,2018 20:10

Nintendo's Switch was hacked to run Linux in February, and now it's clear that hackers could go further and run homebrew apps and games on the device. Eurogamer reports that two exploits have been detailed this week that allow hackers to exploit a ...and more »


Nintendo’s Switch was hacked to run Linux in February, and now it’s clear that hackers could go further and run homebrew apps and games on the device. Eurogamer reports that two exploits have been detailed this week that allow hackers to exploit a hardware flaw in Nvidia’s Tegra X1 (that powers the Switch) and gain access to the Switch’s operating system. Nintendo cannot patch the hardware flaw without releasing a new version of the Switch, which means that at least 14 million devices are vulnerable.
It’s a jailbreak that’s similar to a “tethered” iPhone jailbreak, meaning it needs to be performed on every boot via USB. The hack doesn’t require a modchip, although it’s likely that third parties will now create Switch hardware mods to assist with the jailbreak.
Once the exploit is used, it’s undetectable to existing software and allows Switch users to run custom homebrew apps, or a full touch-enabled version of Linux with 3D acceleration support. Console hacker fail0verflow revealed the exploit, after notifying Nintendo, Google, and Nvidia 90 days ago. The Switch exploit also affects the Nvidia Shield and Google’s Pixel C tablet that it quietly stopped selling in December.

Nintendo will likely be the primary target for software hackers who want to customize their Switch, and those who will likely seek to run pirated software and games on the device. Nintendo will be forced to update its Switch hardware to fully protect against the exploits, as they’re undetectable to existing software and all current models are vulnerable. Nintendo’s latest firmware updated hinted at a new model, so it’s clear the company is already considering releasing a new Switch model.
It’s early days for the exploits right now, as there’s no custom firmware available or homebrew tools to make the inevitable widespread piracy and homebrew app support a reality. It’s now a game of cat and mouse as Nintendo will likely try to implement software fixes that hackers will bypass thanks to their low-level access to the system via the hardware exploit. The Verge reached out to Nintendo for comment on the Switch exploits, and a company spokesperson says “we have nothing to announce on this topic.”

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