Sony went into a fit of legal rage the last time somebody tried hacking its gaming console so it’s definitely not going to be happy about this latest development. Hacking team fail0verflow has demonstrated a PS4 Linux hack, they showed it off during a lightning talk at the 32nd Chaos Communication Congress, the video shows PlayStation 4 booting into linux and even running a version of Pokemon that’s being emulated on Linux.
Like the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 is also based on the x86 architecture. This move reduced developing costs for both companies and also helped make game development simpler for studios, but the change did bring the consoles much closer to conventional PC hardware, technically they were able to run Linux distributions, all that required was a hack.
The hacking team looked for exploits in FreeBSD, PS4’s OS is based on it, and WebKit which powers the console’s browser. Both softwares are open source and vulnerable to security exploits, fail0verflow was able to discover an exploit and use it to run Linux on PS4.
Even though the hack allows running Linux it doesn’t unlock the full power of the underlying hardware. For example, 3D acceleration remains locked and needs patches and tweaks to the kernel driver to work. Due to major changes to the internal design as opposed to conventional PC architecture the hackers had to make more than 7,000 modifications to the Linux kernel to get it to run on the console.
An interesting thing that fail0verflow points out that in theory getting SteamOS to work on PS4 should “just work” when the driver issues and patches have been dealt with. This would mean that the console will then be open to countless PC games, provided that both Sony and Valve don’t block access to Steam, which they will most likely do.
Sony’s legal team can rest easy for now because unfortunately for all of those enthusiasts that are looking for a way to run Linux on PS4, fail0verflow has said that it’s not going to release this exploit, but does point out the exploit exists on PS4 and is open for exploitation to anybody who posseses the right skill set.