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New Technology – Nintendo Switch gets Linux hack


Last year, hackers announced that a homebrew launcher is imminent for the Nintendo Switch. They even showed a video of how it was coming along. Its only disadvantage is that it used Switch firmware version 3.0.0, which means those who wanted to use the tool won’t be able to play Super Mario Odyssey.

More recently, hacker group fail0verflow revealed that they’ve managed to install a perfectly functional Linux browser on Nintendo’s console/handheld hybrid.

The browser comes with brightness controls, two-touch pinching for zooming in and out, and an OpenGL demo that runs at 60 frames per second. It’s not particularly surprising since the Switch is powered by the well-documented Nvidia Tegra X1.

Piracy implications

What’s particularly noteworthy about this news is that the exploit can’t be patched by a future firmware update. This leaves the Switch vulnerable to software piracy.

Since the turn of the millennium, it was common to see Linux hacked onto gaming consoles. The PlayStation 2 and 3 came with Linux capabilities, which left them vulnerable to homebrew hacks and piracy.

Here’s the weird connection: in 2010, a hacker named George Hotz reverse engineered the PS3 via Linux. This allowed him to make a custom firmware for his PS3. Hotz was also part of failOverflow, which as now hacked Linux onto the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo isn’t the type to take this sitting down, however. Remember their bug bounty efforts where they offered to pay anyone who can find security holes in their gaming systems? Well, it’s still very much in effect.

And who knows? Nintendo might have other measures in place.