Nintendo Alters the Switch to Stop Hackers

Nintendo Switch

We know that Nintendo has gone to great lengths to keep the Nintendo Switch from piracy issues, including authentication of games and updates that consistently shut out unwanted programs. But now apparently it’s taking its hardware game to the next level.

A few posters over on Resetera have reported that Nintendo has updated its Switch hardware so it’s not so easy for hackers to access. In this case, it’s made slight changes to the Tegra chip that’s used within the system, which acted as a tool that some savvy programmers could use to create homebrew programs, such as classic emulators that ran on the system.

Here’s the technical breakdown:

“As many know, nVidia had an "oopise" with 10-years worth of SoCs which suffered from an unpatchable, critical bootloader flaw that allowed arbitrary code to be run in recovery mode (RCM) at boot, forfeiting any security on the system. This flaw affected the entire Tegra line and its predecessors going back 10 years. (As many have failed to properly delineate, RCM is not the actual flaw. It is just a standard recovery mode for fixing broken Switches.)

“This flaw was found in the Switch by fail0verflow and reported last year. This flaw led to a boom in homebrew progress and development, but of course this allowed for malware piracy groups to create and market piracy mod-chips to load payloads at boot in RCM and hijack the system. And roughly 18 million switches are vulnerable to that flaw. (This has resulted in large ban waves for pirates, some bricked switches from stupid people bridging the wrong pins and frying their motherboards, to DRMed piracy dongles with stolen community code and brickcode in them... because why not? To all sorts of other nonsense and bullshit, such as hacking. And of course, a lot of emulator work and good old-fashioned homebrew.)

“To the surprise of no one, Nintendo (and nVidia) have rolled out an updated hardware that is fixed from this arbitrary write-flaw through a system known as iPatches. These are fuses with specific bits of code that fix flaws in the boot processes and other hardware level operations. These cannot be applied after leaving the factory (as the fuse allowing them to be written or edited is blown).”

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So, no, the Switch itself hasn’t changed in terms of how general games run and/or download. It’s just a thing to keep hackers at bay if they try to do something with the new modification. That said, it’s likely they’ll hunt down older hardware instead to keep doing their thing, though we’re unsure if there’s any distinction between old and new hardware models.

That said, Nintendo continues to push forward on saying no to pirates.