Is that a JTAG port on the Vita?

September 15, 2012

Japanese developer goroh_kun, known locally for some of his work on Android, recently started investigating the PlayStation Vita. A few days ago he wondered if any hacker had seriously started to look into the Vita’s hardware (the answer was no, at least not publicly).

Yesterday he published a simple photo of the Vita CPU (picture below), showing what could be a JTAG port on the CPU. For those of you who don’t know, JTAG is a standard for electronics debugging (yay wikipedia!). It is used mostly for testing circuit boards (such as a console motherboards) during hardware development phases, but also in production, in order to randomly test retail units for quality control, or to check damaged units.

Because JTAG allows anybody to communicate with the hardware, it is, of course, used by hackers as well to learn more about the hardware they are dealing with.

Therefore a working JTAG port on a Sony console would probably be very useful for hackers, but it would also be extremely surprising. Sony has been known to factory-deactivate JTAG ports from their consoles in the past, so such a mistake would be extremely unlikely. But we’ll see :)

One interesting side-effect of this is that we are seeing more people coming from non-console hacking worlds into the Vita realm. Yifanlu was mostly known for work on the Kindle, and goroh_kun usually lurks in the Android scene. If anything, I would say that Sony’s consoles have gained a reputation of being fairly secure, and this attracts hardware and software hackers looking for a challenge.

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