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Malware Renders PSP Useless

By Susan B. Shor
Oct 7, 2005 11:30 AM PT

Owners of PlayStation Portables (PSPs) who may be inclined to alter their devices so they can play unauthorized games should beware of the software they use to do so. Anti-malware company Symantec reports that one of the programs that claims it allows gamers to circumvent PSP security measures is actually a piece of malware that will wipe out the gaming handheld completely.

Malware Renders PSP Useless

Symantec has dubbed the program Trojan.PSPBrick because it deletes four critical files and leaves the message, "Your PSP 2.0 is hacked, please reboot." The PSP will not, however, be able reboot without the deleted files, rendering it useless and thus a "brick," as gaming insiders call it.

No Help From Sony

The company will not help repair such damaged devices, because any modification attempts void the warranty on the PSP, according to Sony.

Despite a lack of sympathy from Sony, PSPBrick's threat is ranked only a category 1 out of 5. That's a ranking that Ed Moyle, president of Security Curve, agrees with.

"First, this is probably the most primitive piece of malware that I've ever come across," he said. "The malware uses only two system calls for its functionality -- delete file and screen print -- it does not propagate in any way, and it relies on a user installing the software in order for the damage to be done. On a PC, similar functionality could be accomplished in a five-line batch file."

Growing Target

Handheld gaming devices have not been big targets in the past, but that is likely to change.

"Historically, gaming platforms have been more resistant to malware than the more general computing platforms, because the variety of software that is run on these platforms has been fairly tightly controlled by a publisher and less open to user modification," Moyle said.

But the expanding range of content, which includes downloadable games and communications abilities that allow interoperability with other devices, will make the spread of handheld gaming malware easier to achieve.

"If the trends continue, I think it is likely that game platforms will become a more attractive target for attack in the future," he said. "Looking far enough ahead, game platforms might ultimately become an even more attractive target than general purpose PCs; after all, the hardware and configuration are all the same, so an attack that works on one will work on them all."

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