PS3 Could Become a Harder Nut to Crack

Sony is neither confirming nor denying rumors that it will soon phase out current models of its PlayStation 3 in favor of a new version that makes it much harder for hackers to crack its firmware and reprogram it for other uses. Sony contends that hacking facilitates piracy, but its attempts to lock down its system may also hamper benign experimentation.

Sony (NYSE: SNE) doesn’t like it when gamers mess with its products. The company’s stance against PS3 hacking — users altering the machine’s programming to make it perform functions other than playing games — continues to grow stronger, as Sony pulls out the legal guns and shows no signs of backing down.When it comes to consumer electronics, unauthorized hacking and pirating seem like unavoidable hassles. Every product appears to get cracked eventually. According to a new rumor, though, Sony is working on a way to prevent it altogether.

The news site Everything HQ has reported that it’s heard from an unnamed inside source that Sony is working on radical technology that would make hacking on the PS3 an impossibility. The source says the company’s most strongly motivated by recently pirated copies of the recently released “Killzone 3” popping up online . The game is expected to be one of the top-selling games of the entire year. But sales  are already being hurt thanks to someone who managed to get hold of the entire game ahead of its launch.

The hack-free PS3 will have a 300 GB hard drive and be priced at around US$300, according to the report. If true, it would probably become the new PS3 of choice, and Sony would phase out the current, “hackable” models.When asked about the rumor, Sony spokesperson Vikki Brown did not deny the report but did assert that the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.

This rumor arrives in the midst of a high-profile gamer-versus-game-company lawsuits. Sony has sued PS3 hacker George Hotz after he found out how to compromise the system’s security  and then posted all the details online.Sony has already been victorious in early court rulings. Hotz was ordered to turn over all of his computer equipment and forced to take down every one of his online posts that told readers how to hack their PS3s.

Hotz has said that he never intended for anyone to use his hacking tools to run unauthorized software. He says it was only meant to be used as a means of playing backed up copies of legitimately owned games. But in the eyes of Sony and the presiding judge, that’s sort of like putting up a huge billboard that says “Don’t Look Here!” and then acting surprised when people look at it.

This isn’t the only legal battle the PS3 has faced, though. Last year, Sony removed the console’s ability to run open source operating system Linux. When the PS3 was first released, one of its most intriguing features was the ability to install and basically use it as a powerful computer.

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