Some of you might be following the activity on the ps3 “scene” quite actively. I am not, as for some reason I decided it was more convenient to stay up to date with OFW on my PS3 rather than even bother. However I follow it from a distance, ’cause, well, I like drama.

The latest piece of news that caught my attention, as reported by ps3hax, is about the True Blue dongle. If you own a PS3, you probably know that it is quite easy nowadays to pirate games on that platform, although it comes at a price. If my understanding is correct, people who have a 3.55 PS3 can install a custom firmware on it, and potentially play backups as long as the game does not require firmware 3.6 or higher (and, obviously, all recent games require a recent firmware).

A bit of history

Some “hackers” (the infamous warez group paradox, it seems? Apologies for the inconsistencies here, as I said, I follow the ps3 scene from far away) have found a way to play recent games on the 3.55 firmware, but they decided they wouldn’t share the technique publicly, and instead make some money out of it. Yeah, we’re at the dirtiest level of piracy here, but it seems there is a good market for that…

What they did is create a dongle (called True Blue) in order to run these new games. The dongle is initially advertised as a device that enables recent games to run on firmware 3.55, but it’s pretty obvious that this is not what the dongle does.

In order to secure a good money income, what this group is doing consists in removing the Sony DRMs from the games, patching the games to work on 3.55 (note the trick here, at this point, these guys could release the patched videogame on p2p networks and let all pirates enjoy the game for free), and adding their own DRM to the patched game. At this stage, you need to buy their dongle if you want to play the DRMed pirated games, with the illusion of these games being free…

All of this is a nice technique, and it might almost be legal since the patched games are not being sold by the pirates (the tool to read them is) and cannot be directly downloaded from the site…

Of course, a quick analysis of the usb dongle by many competitors of this True Blue dongle led to an army of clones, such as one named the JB2USB. These clones perform as well as the original ones, which resulted in the PARADOX pirates losing money.

would you like to pay me so I can install a virus on your ps3?

Their counter attack is now so gross it makes me laugh: PARADOX basically install a virus in every single one of their patched games. The virus detects if the dongle is a “real” True Blue Dongle, or a clone. if it’s a clone, the virus will do some random stuff to your PS3, such as entirely wiping out your hard drive. Their announcement says:

anyone using this clone will be subject to data loss as a result of random HDD erasure as well as other effects.

So if you were still doubting if a legit company is behind these, you got your answer, we’re much closer to mafia techniques here. If you bought a True Blue dongle I hope you feel great giving your money to people like that.

The True blue blog announcement

Are the people behind True Blue playing their last cards because they are understanding their secret is about to be broken? This is what people at ps3hax seem to think. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re using one of these dongles, you should stop now, as the True blue virus has been reported by many people to also incorrectly detect True Blue dongles as fakes (and therefore destroying your PS3 even if you’re one of their customers).

The PS3 scene is such a mess right now that the best is to laugh about it. So, to summarize, Sony chased away all the “good” hackers who would have publicized that type of information (allowing the piracy of a few titles, but also allowing Sony to patch the problems), and all is left now is a putrid black market. Close to no homebrews, and a gigantic nest of piracy, sounds like a great result. (It is also possible to downgrade PS3s back to 3.55 with a hardware modification, for those who are wondering if they can join this land of fantasy and fun)

A suggestion for paradox: There are chances the PS3 is storing at least passwords and maybe credit card numbers somewhere in clear on the PS3, why don’t you start installing in your patched games an application that steals your customers’ credentials on top of the HDD Erase virus? You’ll probably make money quicker this way