The Nintendo Switch Has Been Hacked

Nintendo Switch
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The one thing that a lot of console manufacturers fear is having their console hacked. Hacking a console opens up an opportunity to give piracy a gateway to the hardware, along with putting illegally obtained copyrighted material on the device. Well, the Nintendo Switch has been hacked, and in a big way.

Eurogamer is reporting that the Nintendo Switch has been hacked and that the console's boot ROM has been dumped. This means that hackers can begin taking apart the operating system and looking over how the boot sequence works for the Switch, which will eventually allow for homebrew software to be made available for modded Switch consoles.

As noted by Digital Foundry's technology editor, Richard Leadbetter, homebrew execution on the Switch is now a possibility along with touch-enabled functionality of Linux with 3D acceleration support becoming a reality. The only way around this issue is to revise the hardware, meaning that Nintendo won't be able to patch out the exploit like it was able to do with an earlier hack by updating the firmware.

Originally some hackers were able to utilize firmware version 3.0 with a copy of Pokken Tournament DX to open up the Switch for homebrew software, including the ability to run some crude emulators on Nintendo's hybrid system.

What's interesting is that the exploit was discovered some time ago, and the hackers who made the discovery informed Nvidia, Nintendo and Google about the exploit. Full documentation was put together with the intent on disclosing it on June 25th, 2018 but after the ROM dump took place the hackers decided to disclose the information early.

It focuses on the Nvidia Tegra SoCs that can be compromised independent of the software. This means that it's on a hardware level and can be exploited so long as the particular line of Tegra SoCs are being used.

The initial disclosure to Google and Nvidia actually began at the start of 2018, with the hackers warning that in the best case scenario there will be homebrew software (which has already happened) but in the worst case scenario there will be ROM dumps for piracy purposes, with a modchip being made available for Nintendo Switch owners.

As some of you know, a modchip would enable Switch owners to crack the system and use all manner of software on the Switch, including pirated games.

As Leadbetter points out in the Eurogamer article, for now Nintendo can only work with Nvidia to provide software level protection and possible checks to remove hacked consoles from being able to access the Nintendo Network. This is something that Microsoft used to do for modded Xbox 360 consoles, banning both the console and the Xbox Live account from being able to access the online services.

The only safe way forward is to change the exploitable loophole on the hardware level, which means Nintendo and Nvidia will have to pump out a new hardware revision of the Switch to curb the exploit from being used on newer consoles. Of course, there's still the issue of all the existing Nintendo Switch units out in the wild being susceptible to the hack.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.