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PS Vita Half Byte Loader (HBL) Development FAQ by Wololo


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132w ago - Today PS Vita hacker wololo has made available a Half Byte Loader (HBL) development FAQ for those interested in progress thus far on Sony's PlayStation Vita handheld console.

Also below he [Register or Login to view links] that he has ported HBL for Teck4's exploit successfully and updated to EU/US versions.

To quote: I managed to port HBL to the US version of Teck4′s exploit in exactly 45 minutes (including writing the savedata exploit and the binary loader), which is a new personal record, thanks to the scripts included in HBL's repository, and also to the fact that the different versions of the game are internally fairly similar (which is to be expected because technically the game is supposed to be the same, just translated, but I seem to recall it wasn't that easy for the Hotshots golf exploit)

I also updated the EU/US versions of this HBL port to get the tweaks I worked on for the past weeks in order to get a fair amount of homebrews to work.

The next step for me is to write a bit of documentation on how to use all this, and then patiently wait. As far as a release is concerned... well check the FAQ I wrote yesterday.

I could spend time polishing this port of HBL for the Vita, improve compatibility, and I might do it, but since there's a high risk this gets used by only a small amount of people before it gets patched, I'll probably leave it in its current state for now. It's probably not worth working too much on the details if nobody ends up using it. Of course if by some sort of miracle this doesn't get patched immediately by Sony, I'll update it accordingly.

Now let's all wait (I'm probably more excited than anybody else about this release, really...)

A FAQ for HBL on the Vita

We've seen through Teck4′s exploit that PSP exploits run flawlessly on the PSP emulator of the Vita. I've spent the past 3 weeks working on leveraging Teck4′s exploit and port HBL to it. I've been receiving lots of questions (probably from people who haven't used HBL back when it was the only possible way to play homebrews on the PSP Go) and will try to answer them here.

What is HBL?

HBL stands for "Half Byte Loader". This is a homebrew loader for the PSP, which was written initially by m0skit0, then improved and maintained by a bunch of devs including myself (those two links are good old memories, when HBL wasn't loading a single homebrew properly). It basically allows to run fanmade games, emulators, etc on the PSP. We've found that it can run on the PS Vita through the PSP emulator.

Will this allow to run PSP backups (isos)?

Although in theory that would be possible, HBL only has access to the PSP "user mode" which is fairly limited. Practically, all teams who have tried to create an iso loader in user mode on the PSP have failed so far.

Will this allow to run PS Vita game backups?

No

Does this give us access to the Vita hardware (touch screen, etc)?

No. HBL accesses the hardware through the PSP emulator, and therefore only has access to what is mapped to the PSP controls. It also only has access to 32MB of ram, etc

Does this give us possibilities to hack the vita further?

Most likely, not. HBL is stuck in user mode, in a sandboxed emulator. To get access to Vita information, we would need first to get kernel access in the emulator (through a psp kernel exploit), and then find other exploits in the emulator/OS itself to break away from the sandbox (which, if the Vita OS is as secure as I think it is, is close to impossible)

But will it give us more horsepower than the psp? Can we expect emulators to run faster, etc?

This still needs to be investigated deeper, but from what I've seen, not really. Memory stick access is definitely faster on the vita (Wagic loads between 5 and 10 times faster on the vita than on a psp go), but the rest seems to follow the psp limitations (as one would expect from an emulator)

Will this be made public?

Yes. Teck4 (who found the exploit) and I agreed to making this public at some point.

When will this be made public?

Some time after the Vita is released worldwide.

I heard Sony can patch this very easily as soon as it's made public?

Yes. Since this uses a vulnerability in a PSP game, as soon as they know which game it is, Sony can remove the game from the PS Store. Once they do that, they can patch the Vita firmware to reject the "malicious" files (either by preventing them from being copied through the content manager assistant, or by patching the PSP emulator, or by patching the PSP game, etc). At that point, people who don't already have the game on their console won't be able to use HBL. Also, people who do have HBL will need to never upgrade their firmware, will have to use some tools such as OpenCMA in order to copy files to the vita, and will be locked out of the PS Store as long as they want to use homebrews.

So shouldn't you keep this under wraps instead?

Meh, it's not like anything is really secret here besides the name of the game. It's already pretty sure this is not useful for hacking the vita further, so even if it gets patched I don't think we will lose "too much".

No iso, no access to the vita internals, and Sony will patch it as soon as it's out, so basically it's useless?

Yes and No. Technically, a hacked PSP is way cheaper and will allow you to do more than that. But this is, as I write these lines, the only way to run unsigned code on the Vita, which in itself makes it a great achievement (and it's always cool to show your friends that your Vita can run Mario, and theirs can't). Also, it didn't take too much time to adapt since most of the code was already available from our past work in the psp scene. It would have been even more useless to say "oh yeah, interesting, we can run psp exploits on the vita" and not do anything with it.

How do you copy/install homebrews to the ps vita, since it cannot be mounted as a regular usb drive?

This will be explained when HBL is released.




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Comments 189 Comments - Go to Forum Thread »

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moja's Avatar
#149 - moja - 131w ago
I wouldn't be surprised if the US launch saw an even later firmware (1.6?). Hopefully the scene for Vita stays motivated and finds some reliable homebrew.

Prince Valiant's Avatar
#148 - Prince Valiant - 131w ago
Indeed, at least he didn't reveal them specifically. I hope the launch firmware isn't very high for the US.

ModderFokker's Avatar
#147 - ModderFokker - 131w ago
I hope a couple of exploits are kept secret until we actually can buy the damn thing.

(Not talking about import ....)

PS3 News's Avatar
#146 - PS3 News - 131w ago
Since reporting on his last flaw uncovered, PlayStation Vita hacker SKFU has found a few new vulnerabilities in Sony's PS Vita handheld gaming system.

To quote via [Register or Login to view links]: Few hours ago, developer SKFU (known for his work on the PS3, but also recently for some investigations on the Vita security) posted a screenshot of his Vita showing some HTML in what is supposed to usually show official messages from Sony’s updates or packages.

Knowing SKFU's passion for everything network-related, I'm assuming he's doing some tests using some local DNS changes... or maybe he managed to put some of his own files in an official package? That would be exciting.

In previous tweets this week, he mentioned he found 2 potentially usable vulnerabilities on the Vita

VITA is back to life, since last tweet found 2 new possibile vulnerabilities. If it runs good, news in blog this evening!

That was, however, 2 days ago, and his blog wasn’t updated since then, so I’m assuming he ran into a few issues. (the “back to life” comment refers to the official 1.52 firmware which bricked his Vita…or appeared to do so... which turned out to be that the battery had to charge for almost 24 hours before the Vita accepting to turn on, for some reason)

Obviously lots of this experimentation will probably not lead to anything, but for now, every bit on info on the internals of the Vita is interesting. Let’s keep digging

Also from SKFU (linked above) is an update on the recent PlayStation Vita 1.52 Firmware status below, as follows:

Ok guys we tested the possibilities on firmware 1.52 for a few days now. What I can confirm is the following:

  • Tech4's exploit still works
  • Wololo's HBL still works
  • Everything I research atm didn't change from 1.50 to 1.52

If that is fine for you, there's no reason not to update. Anyways, I have to mention that this can change without a firmware upgrade!

If you are online with your PS VITA, it can download and install silent updates for any application which runs in usermode and has nothing to do with system critical modules.

The good is, those updates are removed once the system is restored to the current firmware, so it would not be a major problem to remove a fix.

- SKFU

More PlayStation 3 News...

GrandpaHomer's Avatar
#145 - GrandpaHomer - 132w ago
I announced this update a week or 2 weeks ago (don't remember)


Wasn't it actually 1.51 as it was released around that time?

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