Latest Nintendo Switch hack can't be patched

The Nintendo Switch has been available to buy for a little over a year now, and unfortunately for Nintendo, the hybrid console just got hacked. This is no ordinary hack, though, it's one that can't be patched using software alone. In order to render the hack useless, Nintendo and Nvidia need to redesign the Tegra X1 processor at the heart of the Switch.

As Eurogamer reports, the exploit comes via well-known console hackers fail0verflow and is called ShofEL2. The vulnerability was disclosed to Nvidia, Nintendo, and Google (due to the Tegra chip's use in Android devices) a while ago, but now a public release has happened simply because so many people are already aware of the vulnerability.

In the video below, you can see Linux running on an unmodified Switch thanks to the exploit.

 

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The reason Nintendo can't patch to stop the hack is because it's a hardware-based vulnerability being exploited. The bug was found in the Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip and it allows control to be taken during early execution on the Switch meaning signature checks can be bypassed. As the bug exists in the Boot ROM, the only way Nintendo can patch it is at the manufacturing stage. In other words, every Switch released to date and going forward is vulnerable to the exploit until the Tegra chip is modified.

For now, the hack is of little use to the typical Switch user. However, in the coming weeks and months two things are likely to happen. The first is the appearance of software tools allowing developers to create games executable on the Switch using the console's own operating system known as Horizon. It's likely we will then see a growing library of homebrew games released independently of Nintendo.

The second inevitable thing to happen is piracy. As the exploit allows complete control over the Switch, it won't take long for commercial games to start appearing as ROMs and executable on the Switch. This is clearly the thing Nintendo will be more concerned about.

As Eurogamer points out, Nintendo can update the Switch firmware to check for suspicious behavior and block access to online play, or even brick the console. But it will be a cat and mouse game of patches and workarounds going forward. Really what Nintendo needs is a revised Tegra chip from Nvidia as soon as possible.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.