Sony sues hackers over PS3 root key publication, custom firmware

Wednesday, 12th January 2011 03:09 GMT By Brenna Hillier


Sony has broken its “looking into it” silence in spectacular fashion, by suing Geohot, fail0verflow, and multiple other individual hackers for the recent smashing of the PlayStation 3′s security.

GeoHot responded to receipt of the suit by posting a .pdf of the summons on his website, which you can grab here in the short breaks between server overloads.

According to the document, SCEA has filed a complaint with the Northern Californian District Court against George Hots (GeoHot), Hector Martin Cantero & Sven Peter (fail0verflow), and 100 “does”, or unnamed defendants.

Sony alleges the defendants have “circumvented effective technological protection measures … employed by SCEA to protect against unauthorized access to and/or copying of … PlayStation 3 computer entertainment systems … and other copyrighted works”.

Moreover it accuses the lot of them of having “trafficked in circumvention technology, products, services, methods, codes, software tools, devices, component or part thereof, including but not limited to the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm Keys, encryption and/or decryption keys, dePKG firmware decrypter program, Signing Tools, 3.55 Firmware Jailbreak, and/or any other technologies that enable unauthorized access to and/or copying of PS3 Systems and other copyrighted works.”

Apparently, this violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act; the Copyright Act; California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act; and also squeezes in breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relations, trespass and common law misappropriation.

Sony are calling for a temporary restraining order and an order of impoundment.

Geohot published the PS3′s root key on January 3, and custom firmware appeared as early as two days later. GeoHot released video footage of homebrew running on PS3s on January 7, and proof of pirated games arrived by January 12.

More as it comes in. Thanks, Engadget.



  1. FeaturePreacher

    I guess Sony doesn’t understand no piracy protection lasts forever.

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Telepathic.Geometry

    Well, what do you expect them to do. I’d be pissed off too, if someone were handing out the keys to my apartment, I couldn’t change the locks and I couldn’t move out for a few years.

    #2 4 years ago
  3. hitnrun

    They deserve to be prosecuted for being dumb enough to not operate anonymously.

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Crysis

    They’re like weapon dealers,sure they haven’t done anything directly wrong themselves, but they have knowingly provided others with the tools to do so, if you cracked it & just want to play homebrew (fuck homebrew, that’s what computers are for) at the very least keep it to yourself & a few trusted friends.

    #4 4 years ago
  5. NoxNoctisUmbra

    I hope those hackers get sued though their asses and end up in prison!! fuck them!

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Erthazus

    No matter what you say. They are doing the right thing.

    How in the fuck you can release videos of being so fucking awesome saying: SONI FAIUL!!11 FFFUUU We HACKED UR CONSOL!!1 SUP DAWG, it’s GEOHOT!!111 PS3 SUCS!

    and do this shit forever?

    As Telepathic said: “if someone were handing out the keys to my apartment, I couldn’t change the locks and I couldn’t move out for a few years.”

    thats basically the same thing.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. xino

    i agree with what people said here.

    it’s so stupid of them to boast and act tough.

    you know you are doing something to end you up in jail yet they made announcement and acted tough on videos rather than hack it hidden.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. TraceableX

    What they did is not illegal. They don’t support piracy.

    Also, backup loader = piracy? Some people like me, like installing them on the HDD.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Robo_1

    This could be quite a landmark case. I have no idea about the legal merit of the case, but this is going to be a very significant test case, for the rights of users/hackers.


    #9 4 years ago
  10. anuekr

    Nice, Maybe they’ll get a execution warrant out of all of this…

    #10 4 years ago
  11. Mike W


    Even the smartest people can be dumb at times. If the hack the system, cool, keep it on the low, why the fuck did they have to broadcast all over the internet? Yea it may be true that they don’t condone piracy, but still they got a hold of some property that did not belong to them.

    #11 4 years ago
  12. Blerk

    Engadget’s update suggests it’s not really a lawsuit, more of a restraining order. Which doesn’t sound too useful given that the info’s already out there.

    While it’s not surprising to see Sony go after these guys, they really do have nobody to blame but themselves. The hackers are obviously in it for the glory otherwise they’d have released the information quietly and anonymously (indeed, that’d have been the ‘smart’ thing to do, goading Sony is a somewhat stupid thing to do), but you have to wonder whether it would’ve taken very much longer to reach this point if Sony hadn’t started pulling the features which made the PS3 more accessible to the homebrew crowd.

    The smarter way for Sony to handle this would be to add in some LEGAL features which emulate the non-piracy bits of the hack – start allowing users to install their games to the HDD with a disc-check like the 360 does, put back the Linux support so that people can run emulators and such that way, etc. etc. Then the only reason to have a hacked PS3 would be piracy, and it’s easy to see who should be stamped on.

    #12 4 years ago
  13. mojo

    im not sure what sony tries to attempt..
    everythings out in the wild allready.
    its too late.

    #13 4 years ago
  14. Aimless

    “…you have to wonder whether it would’ve taken very much longer to reach this point if Sony hadn’t started pulling the features which made the PS3 more accessible to the homebrew crowd.”

    That strikes me as a rather disingenuous justification. Sony removed the OtherOS option in response to geohot gaining hypervisor access to the PS3 via a Linux kernal, a development he released to the public.

    I suppose you could argue the whole thing is Sony’s fault for including OtherOS support in the first place. Clearly people can’t be trusted with such things, so I suspect you’ll see even fewer concessions to homebrew in the future.

    As far as I’m concerned hacking is counter-productive to its supposed remit.

    #14 4 years ago
  15. Blerk

    I’m not saying it justifies anything, but they definitely went about it the wrong way. Removing the feature was like showing a red rag to a bull, they didn’t shut them down they basically challenged them to do it better. The previous hack was pretty wonky and difficult to get going, and could be shut down relatively easily with a firmware update. The new one sounds like it’ll be practically unstoppable and that can’t be good for anyone.

    #15 4 years ago
  16. Mike W


    What you do if you were in Sony’s situation? Hey maybe if Geohot sticks by that story of his that he’s against piracy I think he will be alright.

    #16 4 years ago
  17. Aimless

    @15 But Sony couldn’t win. If they left it in they risked their console being thoroughly hacked, removing it would antagonise the hackers.

    In hindsight it’s easy to say they made the wrong choice, but removing OtherOS affected only a very small percentage of their customers whilst ostensibly ensuring those machines which were updated were no longer vulnerable to Linux exploits. I think it was the right choice at the time, especially with the spectre of PSP piracy looming over Sony’s shoulder.

    My understanding is that the current hack was born of the PS Jailbreak USB dongle, an avenue entirely unrelated to geohot’s previous exploits. In other words the recent hack is built on the analysis of stolen Sony maintenance hardware: all the removal of OtherOS lent to the situation was a rather shaky justification for the hackers.

    #17 4 years ago
  18. Blerk

    You might be right, actually – I could well be confusing the two previous hacks. Given that I don’t have any use for them I haven’t been following them in any real detail.

    But you’re absolutely right that Sony couldn’t win, and they still can’t win. So removing features that legitimate users might find useful encourages those legitimate users to try illegitimate methods, surely?

    Hence my suggestion that the best way to manage the situation would be to add features rather than take them away. Put out a general ‘we can detect this and we’ll shut your accounts down’ warning, but follow it up with a ‘but here’s a bunch of new convenience things you can do so that you don’t have to install a hack’ sweetener.

    And obviously if they’re serious about criminal charges then they need to bring a proper case rather than just a restraining order. That genie’s not going back in the bottle.

    #18 4 years ago
  19. Aimless

    @18 I can see where you’re coming from, but the reality is that the vast majority of people making use of hacks will be in it for piracy and those that aren’t won’t ever be happy until a platform is entirely open — which, inevitably, leads to piracy.

    Sony had to make a call not just in their own interests but those of their various partners, publishers, et cetera. In that respect pissing off a few thousand people is the far lesser evil.

    The PS3 was already the most open console on the market, it was already the best of three as a media server, but that still wasn’t enough. Whatever convenience features were added — all of which require significant investments of both money and manpower — there would always be someone pushing for more or a hacker looking for a challenge.

    #19 4 years ago
  20. Deacon

    Definitely not one to understand legal / American jargon.. what do these legal proceedings ACTUALLY mean for George & his chums??

    #20 4 years ago
  21. ududy

    What’s everyone’s here on about? The 360 has been wide open for easy pirating for years now, and it still beats the hell out of the PS3 in units sold on every multi-platform game. These hacking developments would have had no significant effect on Sony’s sales – they are just flexing muscles to show they are protecting their territory.

    #21 4 years ago
  22. GwynbleiddiuM

    Well Lawsuit or not, it’s a valid move. They need to take action against those who are screwing the integrity of their product. And SONY needs to take the same rout as Microsoft by banning the shit outa those whom using these hacks to be able to use pirated video games.

    #22 4 years ago
  23. Aimless

    @21 The key difference is that the latest PS3 hack could allow for zero effort piracy, i.e. someone can hand you a USB stick and you’ll be able to run what’s on it without modifying your system or firmware. It’s more akin to the R4 situation on DS than the comparatively laborious process of 360 cracking.

    No one’s saying the PS3 is done for, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this has Sony bringing forward the release of their next home console.

    #23 4 years ago
  24. Dr.Ghettoblaster

    Interesting times indeed..

    I’m with Robo1, wake me up with the highlights reel and don’t forget the popcorn.

    #24 4 years ago
  25. Dark

    #25 4 years ago
  26. NeoSquall

    I guess KB would just rip their hearts out and make a barbecue.

    #26 4 years ago
  27. LePlatypus

    Geohot isn’t pirating, he can’t be done for piracy. If what they’re doing is on the basis of him ‘enabling’ piracy then why hasn’t Tim Berners Lee been super mega sued? Although I don’t condone what they do, people like Geohot are protected by law.

    #27 4 years ago
  28. Dr.Ghettoblaster

    What Sony should do………is hire the guy for their new director of security team.

    #28 4 years ago

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