Sony Stands Up to PS3 Hackers, But Will it Pay Off?

January 12, 2011 Written by Sebastian Moss

The once impenetrable PlayStation 3 has become one of the most open and defenceless systems in gaming history. Hackers claimed that Sony would be unable to stop the hacks on current hardware, confident that their actions would continue without any opposition. However, Sony is planning on fighting back, suing those involved in the hack. But what ramifications could the lawsuits have on Sony and the hacking community?

Good for Sony:

Removing the key players:

No matter what your stance on hacking is, it is evident that Geohot and the fail0verflow team are incredibly talented individuals who were instrumental in bypassing the PS3’s security. If one, or both, groups were eliminated the PS3 homebrew scene would suffer a serious blow. Fail0verflow admitted that “Sony can throw roadblocks in your way via SW [software updates]”, roadblocks that future hackers may have greater difficulty overcoming. The team also noted that the current hacks don’t “mean breaking into future versions will be as convenient as it is now”, with upcoming versions of the PS3 thought to include different security features.

Sending a message:

Depending on the scale of the legal proceedings, and the magnitude of the fine if successful, a court case that effectively ruined Geohot or fail0verflow could act as a warning to future hackers who may be hesitant to risk suffering the wrath of Sony. The thought of a life saddled with debt due to some hacking – which is primarily a non-profit hobby – is rather off-putting for many would-be Geohots.

Bad for Sony:

Too little, too late?

Now that the major sections of the PlayStation 3’s security have been compromised, with the process behind hacking the console being released to the public, the damage has been done. The ball has been set rolling, and no amount of legal proceedings will be able to stop that. Now that the floodgates are open, thousands of hackers have been given the tools to continue opening up the system and creating custom firmwares.


The “Barbara Streisand effect” is the internet phenomenon where the process of trying to suppress or remove information causes it to be publicised even more. With the hacking community set to be in uproar over the lawsuit, many hackers will be increasingly driven to the PlayStation platform, many seeking notoriety from making their name in the PS homebrew scene.


The successful suit of Geohot and fail0verflow could have the unwanted effect of turning the hackers into martyrs, elevating their cause to a far more serious level. Hackers would likely group against Sony out of revenge, justifying their actions because of the lawsuits.

Making a stand:

Whether Sony’s attempted lawsuit will have any real effect on the PS3’s growing homebrew and piracy community remains to be seen, but, possibly more importantly, the electronics giant is making a stand against hackers. Geohot famously hacked the iPhone, but Apple never pursued any legal actions – something that has happened across the industry. After the successful sentence of the hacker ‘Mafiaboy’, who was far more purposely destructive, Kevin Schmidt, Network Programmer at the University of California at Santa Barbara noted that “many hackers don’t seem to believe they’ll ever be prosecuted.” In this case, many hackers don’t seem to believe they’ll ever be sued. Will Sony prove them wrong, and if so, will it be to their advantage?