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Newest PS3 firmware hacked in less than 24 hours

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Hackers say they unlocked the latest firmware for the PlayStation 3 game console, less than 24 hours after Sony released it in a desperate attempt to stuff the jailbreaking genie back in the bottle.

Sony announced the release of Version 3.56 on Wednesday. That same day, game console hacker Youness Alaoui, aka KaKaRoToKS, tweeted that he had released the tools to unpack the files, allowing him to uncover the new version's signing keys.

The hack is the latest volley in Sony's never-ending campaign to lock down the PS3 so only authorized (read: sponsored) games and software run on the console. In the crosshairs are some of the PS3's most enthusiastic users, who want to dissolve the artificial shackles so they can run homebrewed software and other customized software on the hardware they legally own.

The hack underscores the futility of Sony's legal maneuvers. It came 24 hours before a federal judge ordered the seizure of computers belonging to George Hotz, one of the hackers who unlocked Version 3.55 and published the key used to sign authorized games. In other words, before the draconian temporary restraining order even went into effect, the PS3 baton had already been passed to another hacker, who was under no such restrictions.

One can imagine this pattern playing out indefinitely.

So far, Alaoui has released only the signing keys for 3.56, which have since been removed from Github.com following copyright take-down demands. Determined gamers can still find the data in underground sites, including on Gitorious.org. It's now a matter of someone using the key to create a customized version of the firmware and releasing it. That hasn't happened yet, although there are reports of several hoaxes offering fakes.

According to unconfirmed reports, Version 3.56 contains hidden functionality that allows Sony to scan PS3 consoles for custom firmware and other unauthorized software and report the results back to the company. Sony reportedly can modify the scanner anytime it wants to, without having to update the firmware. Microsoft is said to have put similar features in its Xbox 360 so it can ban modded consoles from its gaming network.

Version 3.56 also introduces a significantly re-engineered private encryption key that makes it next to impossible to roll back the update. PS3 users with older firmware are required to update if they want to continue using the PlayStation Network. ®

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