Hackers have found a way into the Nintendo Switch, possibly giving those with a high level of technical knowledge a way to run pirated games on the portable console.
The hack, similar to a jailbreak of a smartphone, was publicized Tuesday. It can turn the Switch into a tablet that can run pirated programs and grant hackers far greater control over the system than Nintendo intended.
The weak point in the console is a problem with its processor chip, the Tegra X1 from Nvidia. This chip, which is essentially the brains of the device, is also used in some Android phones. A hacking group called fail0verflow said in a blog post that it had informed Google about the vulnerability and promised to wait 90 days to disclose it to give Google a chance to examine it.
Nvdia pointed The Post to a security notice posted Tuesday that said it is aware of the problem, but has not received any reports of the flaw being used for any attack. "NVIDIA takes security concerns seriously, and is actively evaluating this issue and conferring with partners," the notice said.
Nintendo and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Because the flaw is a hardware problem, it will be very difficult for Nintendo to fix the issue remotely by sending updates to people over the Internet. Instead, it may be a weakness that can be changed only for future consoles.
Executing the hack is a complicated process and requires confidence in one's programming skills and a willingness to possibly destroy the Switch in the process, if something goes wrong. For example, part of the process requires would-be hackers to insert a wire into the Switch's right controller to short out the system.
As the group writes, “We don’t have a guide for the Average User to use this, nor should they, most likely, since a lot of things are very rough around the edges.”
Fail0verflow, which has found vulnerabilities in other game consoles in the past, was not the only group to discover this flaw in the Switch. Another group dedicated to hacking the Switch, ReSwitched, put up a detailed account of the same exploit earlier Tuesday and explicitly said a similar hack would work for other devices that contain Nvidia's chip.
While Nintendo may not have a simple way to fix consoles that contain this vulnerability, it could probably detect consoles that have been hacked and then ban them from playing games online or using other online functions to prevent any unfair advantage derived from the hacking.