Sony Reintroduced a PS4 Bug on PS5 Which Could Have Led to a Jailbreak

A security researcher discovered that a bug he found for the PS4 in 2020 was also present on the PS5.
Detail view of a PS5 controller during the FIFAe World Cup 2022 group stage as part of the FIFAe Finals 2022 on July 15, 2022 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Image: Gonzalo Arroyo - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Hackers could have jailbroken the PlayStation 5 thanks to a bug that was already discovered and patched on the PlayStation 4 in 2021, but then reappeared on the new console.

The bug was found by security researcher Andy Nguyen, who goes by theflow0 and has been called a “famous PlayStation hacking god” by the video game website Kotaku. 

Advertisement

“I found it on the PS4 and then two years later on the PS5. It seems like their patch somehow got reverted when doing FreeBSD9 to FreeBSD11 migration,” Nguyen told Motherboard, referring to the Linux distribution that underpins the PlayStation’s operating system. 

“Imagine being so good at hacking that you find bugs in consoles that don’t exist”

Last year, Nguyen hinted that he had been able to jailbreak his PlayStation 5 by tweeting a picture of the console’s debug settings, which should only be accessible if the console is jailbroken. 

Jailbreaking a PlayStation allows the user to install emulators for other consoles, play pirated games, as well as unlock certain features that are not normally available. The disadvantages are that Sony may block a jailbroken console from using network features, preventing the user from playing online games.

On January 4 of this year, Nguyen reported the bug to Sony and wrote that he had already reported the same vulnerability in 2020, “when the PS5 did not yet exist, thus this should be considered as a new report and not a duplicate.”

Advertisement

“Imagine being so good at hacking that you find bugs in consoles that don’t exist,” Matt Suiche, a security researcher, joked on Twitter in response to the news. 

Do you do cybersecurity research on video games or video game consoles? Or do you develop cheats for games or reverse engineer anti-cheat software? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, Wickr/Telegram/Wire @lorenzofb, or email lorenzofb@vice.com

The bug allowed him to get access to the PlayStation 5’s kernel, the core part of the console’s operating system, which has access and controls most of its functions, Nguyen said. He also said he didn’t want to blame Sony for this mistake, because sometimes companies reintroduce bugs that had already been patched. 

Sony patched the bug for the PlayStation 5 on Tuesday, and rewarded Nguyen with a bounty of $10,000. Nguyen received the same amount as a reward in 2021. 

Nguyen explained that the bug he found was only one of a chain of bugs needed to fully jailbreak the PlayStation 5. And as of today, there are no public jailbreaks for Sony’s new console, which also means there are no unofficial apps or emulators like there are for the PlayStation 4, for which there is a public jailbreak

Advertisement

Sony did not respond to a request for comment. 

Last week, another security researcher found a way to hack the PS4 and the PS5 by exploiting the official PS2 emulator that Sony provides for its two most recent consoles. 

The researcher, who goes by CTurt, explained in a blog about his research that by hacking the official PS2 emulator he could run unofficial apps, other emulators, and “even some pirated commercial PS4 games.” 

One of the advantages of exploiting the PS2 emulator is that Sony can not patch it, according to CTurt, 

“Because the emulator is bundled as a game, not part of the OS,” CTurt told Motherboard, “Sony has no readily available options to revoke access to it.”

Sign up for Motherboard’s daily newsletter for a regular dose of our original reporting, plus behind-the-scenes content about our biggest stories.