To quote: A few days ago I posted my concerns about the “Content Manager” tool, a tool that is compulsory to install and use if you want to copy files from and to your vita. Some people said I was paranoid (see my answer to that at the end of the article), and others shared my concerns and started digging. Interestingly enough, that article gathered almost as much attention as my much more spectacular (in my opinion) video of a Megadrive emulator running on the vita.
Some sites took my words out of context and said that I had proof Sony is spying on us when we copy files. This is not true, I don’t have any proof, just lots of concerns. Because of that I decided to call Sony’s customer service in order to get more information. Read along.
First of all, a piece of relatively good news: some users on French site psvitagen mentioned that it is possible to copy Movies and Music without being connected to the internet, through the dedicated “Music” and “Movie” sections of the vita.
I confirmed this is true, so movies, music and pictures can still be copied to the vita even without an internet connection. The internet connection is however, as far as I can tell, required to copy anything else, which, given the limited possibilities of the vita, basically means PSP/Vita games and/or savedata.
In theory and from what I saw so far, the internet connection is probably used for two things: check for new versions of the firmware (an update was enforced on me if I wanted to keep using the content manager 2 days ago), and possibly do some DRM verifications. That’s the theory, and is somewhat confirmed by some early investigations of the binary by dev Hykem.
So, when you copy it to your vita, Sony checks that your Vita game or your Sony-purchased movie is actually “ok” to play on your vita, to make sure you didn’t steal it or copied it from a friend’s computer. Fair enough (although I would question why this check needs to be done there, rather than directly on the vita). But what happens for content that does not require any Sony drm check is my concern.
Even though it’s possible to copy them without an internet connection, does Sony gather any information on my music, my pictures, or my movies (and how about my games savedata, which do require the internet connection while being transferred) ? Do they collect filenames, id3 tag, or exif information? Probably not, but more transparency on the subject would definitely be welcome. This is not about hacking here, this is about sending private information to a company that has proven regularly that they cannot be trusted with our data.
So, full of concerns, I decided to call Sony’s customer service today (actually my wife did it for me...). The person we talked to, as expected, wasn’t a technical person and therefore had close to no information on this. She was aware that an internet connection is required, and mentioned to us that this is written on the manual.
We explained that we knew that, and that we have an Internet connection (it usually takes time when calling a customer service to explain that you don’t have a technical problem using the software, but an ethical one) , but we’d like to disconnect it when it is not necessary, because we don’t see the point in being connected to Sony’s server when we transfer files between two pieces of hardware we own (at which point my wife added: “especially given what happened to your company recently, we’re a bit concerned about our private information“. Hehe, that’s why I love her ).
Understanding our concern the person at the customer service contacted somebody more technical to get more information on the subject. She then came back to us and told us this was in place to make sure that the computer running the content manager is correctly “associated” to the Vita. She didn’t have any technical details to share about the firmware upgrade or the DRM verifications, but she guaranteed us that no personal data was being transferred. She also gave us her name (which I won’t share here) in case we have more questions on the subject (but don’t ask me to call them more, first it’s not a free call, and second I already felt super bad to have my wife spend 30 boring minutes on the phone for me because of my new toy)
(one thing I’d like to say is that every time I contacted Sony’s customer service, their answers were fairly fast and accurate. They usually give me bad news, but they’re doing their best to help. The only time they were completely wrong was when my PSP 1000 stopped accepting connecting to Media Go. They told me it was because the PSP was a Japanese PSP, and I was trying to connect to the European store. I knew this wasn’t true since I had no problem doing the exact same thing with two other PSPs. The real cause was probably that Sony had banned my console for some reason. Anwyays overall thumbs up for the efficiency of the customer service)
So, that’s the official answer, but I’m sure some of us will pass the PC parts of the Content Manager through their microscopes to confirm if this is true. But at least now I have some official information from Sony, which is, in a way, positive. Nevertheless, it does not statisfy my curiosity on some of the files found by Hykem, (such as Mp3Promoter.suprx, png_promoter.suprx, etc… so I’m sure many people will want to learn more about this thing.
Oh, Before I go...
Note: don’t read the section below if you don’t like me when I rant, I know some of you don’t like me when I do that (Spare me the “why do you buy Sony products in the first place?” types of comments if possible, as that’s not the point)
A personal note about why I’m doing all of this, and a message to haters. There’s something interesting about fanboys, no matter how much you show them the truth and give them verifiable proof about it, they’ll always find excuses to justify the illegal behavior of their favorite company. A few days ago I started investigating the insides of the PS Vita. I got HBL to run on it, and was able to run PSP homebrews on the vita. Fanboys told me I would kill the vita because of piracy.
I also raised privacy concerns about the vita “content manager”, a tool that is compulsory to use if you want to transfer some files from and to your vita, and requires you to be constantly connected to the internet while doing so. Again, Sony fanboys told me Sony would never spy on their users, or went Eric Shmidt on me, telling me that Sony probably has good reasons to spy on me in the first place.
Well guess what, champions: my work on the PSP was never used in any way to pirate Sony’s content, because it is not technically doable to do such a thing with HBL. And telling me that Sony would never do something illegal to their users is completely forgetting that they intentionally did so a few years ago with their infamous rootkit.
There’s no historical record of me being a bad guy, I was never sued or sent to jail in my life, while Sony has proven several times to engage in illegal or barely legal activities (see the rootkit case, or the Sony VS Universal studios case), but yet in Sony fanboys’ heads, I am the one with a suspicious behavior. Next time you comment on my work, just get your facts straight, not all hackers are promoting piracy, and my work (HBL) cannot be used to pirate games.
I won’t pretend I’m a fighter of freedom or anything, I do this mostly for fun, but I take extra care to do things that are legal, or at least not ethically questionable. The same cannot be said for Sony, so it is perfectly legit to have doubts about the tools they make me install on my machine, even if in the end the suspicions were wrong.
Sony lost their “presumption of innocence” rights years ago, I’d rather assume they’re guilty first, than feel sorry for myself later when the contents of my hard drives get leaked from Sony’s servers by some black hat hacker.
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Following up on his PS Vita VHBL Motorstorm Arctic Edge release, this weekend PS Vita and PSP hacker wololo has revealed that Everybody's Tennis (known as Hot Shots Tennis in the US and Minna no Tennis in Japan) contains a vulnerability that could lead to the execution of external code and has since been removed from PSN by Sony.
To quote from his blog (linked above) as follows: Dear Sony, it has come to my http://wololo.net/wagic/2012/03/23/vhbl-name-of-the-new-exploited-game-will-be-announced-soon that one of the PSP games available on the PlayStation Vita has a vulnerability that could lead to the execution of external code by some malicious users. Therefore I am writing this blog post so that you can patch the game or remove it from the PSN store as soon as possible.
Preferably, I suggest you take the money from your clients first, and prevent them from downloading the game afterwards, just like you did with Motorstorm Arctic Edge, 3 weeks ago. This way it will be a win-win situation for you, and you can always blame it on the hackers later on.
As a matter of fact, I have discovered that some "hackers" (I prefer to call them terrorists) have already prepared a http://wololo.net/talk/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=10766 which, using this vulnerability, could allow people to run software that would be extremely dangerous for your business, such as 20 year-old 8 bit games and 154 different versions of pong.
I think this puts your business at risk, and I've tried to stop those vilains by all means necessary, but sadly it seems they are not breaking any law. Hopefully, giving you the name of the game will help you to take some efficient action.
Those people are clearly wrong in their mind to try to play crappy open source software, when they could enjoy a great game such as Ridge Racer for less than 10$ a track, (which is clearly not a ripoff compared to the price one would have to pay in the real world to drive cars that completely defy the laws of physics. Although on that subject I woud like if you could help me, as my version of the game seems to be blocked in "demo mode" for some reason. All the 5 cars have exactly the same specs, so surely there's something I've done wrong somewhere.)
I digress. The name of the game is Everybody's Tennis. It is also known as Minna no tennis in Japan. Thankfully the game is not available on the US Vita store, so this should limit the problems on your end. I heard however that these hackers have prepared a US version of the hack just in case that version is being sold somewhere such as the HK store. I also heard people can buy the UK version from the US if they buy some PSN cards from resellers on ebay and other sites.
If I may give some advice, I think this is not secure enough. True, you did a good job in preventing people from buying games outside of the country they live in (and being a French living in Japan, I can't tell you how much I appreciate the fact that I can't buy any game on the French PSN, this is exactly how globalization should work, and it helps me sparing lots of money by not buying any game), but I think in order to avoid future hacks, you should simply prevent everyone from buying games on the PSN, which will guarantee you a complete control of the market.
The hackers also announced they would release their hack a few hours or days after they announce the name of the game being used. They claim this only allows people to run "homebrew" games and that in no way it allows people to play pirated PSP or vita games, but I think this is not an excuse to hack.
I realize it is saturday evening for your teams in Europe, and Sunday morning in Japan. I hope you will not have to wake some people in the middle of the night just to take action, I would have chosen a better time, but I myself have very little time to blog outside of weekends.
Hoping that working together we will be able to stop hackers. I seem to be one of the few people on Earth who understand that the real enemies of the Vita are not your poor marketing techniques, the terrible software such as the "back to the 90′s" netfront browser, the bad launch lineup, the delays on the playstation suite, the recent downgrade from 5 to 2 allowed copies of any given psn game, and the increasing competition of smartphones that all have better CPUs than the Vita. No, the real enemies are those people playing Lamecraft, who are clearly killing the videogame market, so let's destroy them together.
Please pay extra attention to the dev known as wth, who apparently is behind this whole thing, as well as Teck4 who apparently helped him for the Japanese version of the hack. I also heard that somes guys named mamosuke and msparky83 were involved in the testing. It would be good if you have a way to maybe track these guys' phones or something. Or maybe you can simply sue them, I heard it's something you do very well.
Yours truly, W. Ololo
Update: Following our discovery yesterday that the Honk Kong version of Everybody's Tennis was different from the 3 other ones, wth got to work and adapted VHBL to this version. I haven't tested this, but hopefully people who bought the HK version of Everybody's Tennis can confirm if it works.
WTH also hinted to me that he might be able to get rid of the current limitation on the European version of the exploit, in which people have to switch the language of their console to French before running VHBL. Stay tuned.
Thanks to the great work of wth, here is the long awaited second release of VHBL. Those of you who missed the Motorstorm exploit probably had a chance to grab a copy of Everybody's Tennis before Sony pulled it (let's be happy, they gave us a bit more than 30 hours this time, last time was 8 hours). If not, well stay tuned, there are still other PSP user exploits lying around, and I'm sure something will come eventually.
But let's get to the real subject here, this new release of VHBL. Sadly, I didn't test it myself on my Vita, only on a PSP, so here's to hope everything will go well. The full port has been done by wth (a.k.a. Yosh), with some help from Teck4 (JP exploit), and msparky83 and mamosuke (testing). I wasn't involved in this port, so all credit goes to these guys. I want to thank as usual all the developers behind HBL, who made it relatively easy to port, in particular m0skit0 and JJS. Yosh also adds special thanks to dridri85, Zer01ne, Truthkey, and other devs who kept this a secret while it was being developed. From the readme:
HBL port to the EU/US/JP versions of the exploit by Yosh
EU/US Exploit by Yosh, JP Exploit by teck4, discovered by Yosh
wololo for the help
Thanks go to:
All the devs who made HBL what it is today, in particular m0skit0 and JJS
dridri85, Zer01ne, Truthkey and all the other devs who kept the secret, that's much appreciated guys
Monsieur2T2R for the cool VHBL icons/wallpapers
Apologies to all the people who bought the Everybody's Tennis game from the HK store, it turns out that version is a 4th version of the game for which no exploit was prepared yet.
The HK version of the game is difficult to find, so if you happen to own that game on your PSP and are a bit technical savvy, you might want to give it a try and port VHBL to it. I'm convinced it's just a matter of time, it just takes one guy.
So, to whoever will do that port, thanks in advance, and to people who are waiting for the HK version of VHBL, please stay tuned. Neither wth nor me were actually aware that the HK version was different from the other 3, so it might take a while for something to be ready, but we're not forgetting you.
HOW TO INSTALL AND RUN HBL ON EVERYBODY'S TENNIS
It is *strongly* recommended that you turn of all wireless connections on your PS Vita, and that you use OpenCMA on your PC instead of the regular CMA. This is recommended because otherwise your console has a way to force you to upgrade the firmware even before you get a chance to use the exploit.
Extract the HBL archive matching your version of the game in your CMA PSP Savedata folder. It is a folder on your PC named PSSAVEDATA/[lots of random characters here]. If you don't know where it is, check your settings in CMA
Connect your PS Vita to the PC through the CMA, it should give you the possibility to copy the savedata from your PC to the Vita. If not, you probably extracted it in the wrong folder. (Note: You will also want to install some homebrews with a similar technique, read the section below)
Important for owners of the European version of the game: Before running Everybody's tennis, you need to change the language of your PS Vita/PSP to French. This is a limitation of the exploit for now, this might or might not change in future revisions. you can of course switch your console back to your own language once you are done playing with VHBL.
To run HBL, start the Tennis game, select "Continue" in the Main Menu. At this point, HBL should start
HOW TO INSTALL AND RUN HOMEBREW
Installing homebrew on the PSP was an easy task. On the Vita, until better solutions are provided, it's quite a pain in the rear. The CMA will only let you copy savedata, and will not recursively browse folders. To address this, HBL comes with a tool that can extract archives with a specific structure.Packaging the homebrew for installation on the Vita:
1) download PSP homebrew from your favorite Web site (wololo.net/downloads)
2) extract the homebrew somewhere on your hard drive, and with your favorite utility, zip it again with the *store* setting (no compression), in a file that you will name "install.zip"
3) take any PSP savedata (but not the one used for HBL!), and add the "install.zip" to that folder, in your PC CMA folder. so your PSP Savedata will look something like this:
in folder PSSAVEDATA/1a2b3c4def5678/UCUS12345000/ (or something like this) you will have the following files:
1) run OpenCMA on your PC, and CMA on your Vita
2) copy the previously packaged SAVEDATA (see above) with your homebrew in "install.zip" on your Vita
3) run HBL (how to run HBL is explained in the previous section)
4) navigate with the HBL menu to the SAVEDATA folder, then go to the folder you just downloaded (in my example, UCUS12345000), and clikc cross or circle on it
5) At this point, the HBL menu should ask you if you want to install the homebrew. select yes, and wait until HBL is done extracting your homebrew
6) The homebrew is now installed, and you can run it by going to the GAME folder, if everything went well, a new subfolder with your homebrew has been created here, and you can run the homebrew
OpenCMA (wololo.net/downloads/index.php/download/1252) is strongly recommended to install if you want to use VHBL. Open CMA is a tool by Virtuous Flame that allows you to copy files from and to your vita without being connected to the internet. This is useful, especially if you don't want Sony to forcefully update your firmware.
Update 2: PlayStation Vita developer wololo[ has updated (wololo.net/wagic/2012/04/15/new-vhbl-version-for-everybodys-tennis-gets-rid-of-language-limitation-in-eu-version/) the VHBL version for Everybody's Tennis, which now gets rid of language limitation in EU version. Downloads:
http://www.mediafire.com/?zg9w1oo6gmdgg32 (All EU versions except Italy)
http://www.mediafire.com/?xaobb1a88m68uz1 (Italian version)
http://www.mediafire.com/file/63ifs816yivliap/vhbl-tennis-JP_EU_US-yosh.zip (JP/US, also works with the EU version, but for EU the links above are recommended)
To quote: "Developer wth released today an update to his Everybody's Tennis exploit, specifically for the EU store. This change does not improve homebrew compatibility, but will work independently of the language of your console. Yes, finally, no need to switch your console to French or Spanish.
Even though there is no new homebrew compatibility, I'm sure this will be a welcome update for those of you who are using this exploit."
Well, I saw the news and downloaded the files, then after reading more carefully to get it to work, realized I might as well delete everything. I don't have Motorstorm, can't get it (now), and the space required on my little 4GB stick greatly outsizes the actual homebrew I'd like to run. So, nice proof-of-concept, and many thanks to wololo for actually releasing something useful.