The Possibilities Behind the Vita’s Only Publicly Available PSP Emulator Kernel Exploit

October 8, 2012

Over the past few week or so the PlayStation Vita scene has changed drastically. We’ve seen the leaked work of former developer, Coldbird, and the released work that is TN-A, a HEN equivalent for the Vita’s PSP emulator, but what really can we do with a sand-boxed PSP emulator kernel exploit. In it’s most basic form, the recently released HEN allows homebrew, plugins, and PSP UMD backups to be run, but what really is the purpose of a kernel exploit? After all, it’s not all that common as you would think.

Many of you who are long time members of recall the past 9 months of vHBL releases, and possibly even before the PlayStation Vita, back to the original PSP 1000, 2000, and 3000 series. The constant cat and mouse game of exploits and updates has been going on for nearly 7 years, beginning with the launch firmware on the PSP 1000. In this time period, nothing has really changed. A usermode exploit allows for homebrew, created with the SDK, to be run, as well as other unsigned code. Furthermore, escalating higher than just usermode, we have the kernel mode exploit we are presented with today.

A kernelspace exploit allows for anyone to have access to the flash0 of the PSP, or in the case of the Vita, the sandboxed flash0, memory. This allows for custom firmware to be created and deployed, homebrew to be run, PSP UMD backups to be played, cheats to be used, themes to be changed, plugins to be installed, and so on. A kernel exploit in it’s highest form is one of the best forms of access to any given console. Once you have the kernel exploited, you can do pretty much anything.

How about in the case of the Vita, how far is too far? Sure, we’ve all seen Davee play ISO’s back on the Vita in March, and “Tony” play PS1 games in the same fashion, but what really can be done? The answer lies in the form of the PSP 1000. You see, Sony decided that it would be best to effectively emulate the PSP 1000 in terms of software and ram, inside of the Vita’s own user interface. The PSP emulator on the Vita is launched with any game that you have downloaded from PSN or transferred from your PS3. When the game is launched, the PSP is technically being emulated, such as it would if it was running in an emulator on your computer. Emulators have been around for years, this is no different.

By not having to allow a lot of ram to the PSP emulator, the Vita can continue to process everything it needs to in the background. This is good for the average user, but perhaps not so much for the developer.

I write this article purely on theory at this point, as I have to wait until Tuesday like the rest of you to get my hands on a kernelspace exploit, but I have come to an understanding of what really can be done inside of this sandbox Sony has lent us.

Perhaps the ram allowed for the emulator isn’t enough, but what I do know is that the entire system’s firmware is present, this is evident in the flash dump we had quite some time ago.

With all of the required files in place, I strongly believe that the PSP emulator inside of the Vita can be used in the same way a PSP you buy can be used. This means all the things you’ve grown to love as an original PlayStation Portable user, and everything mentioned above. Whether it be the Cross Media Bar (XMB) or anything else under the sun, I’m willing to bet we will at some point see it in the emulator on the Vita.

You might be asking yourself, does this mean we could see a full fledged PSP customer firmware running inside of the Vita’s PSP emulator? The simple answer to that very detailed question is fortunately a solid, yes.

Just as the PSP 1000 has it’s fair share of CFW, I believe the Vita will too inside it’s PSP environment.

Think about this. What if you were able to launch any PlayStation Portable game from PSN and be presented with the XMB you remember from the PSP’s golden days? From here you could watch movies or play games, and even homebrew. All this could very soon be possible.

Simply by having this one kernel exploit, and the many games that can be exploited to launch it (read: Monster Hunter, Urbanix) we have a whole world of opportunities.

As we approach what is soon to be another update, by definition of the cat and mouse game between Sony and us developers, I urge you not to update to whatever the newer firmware may be (be it 1.82 or 1.9) no matter the cost, as the only publicly available kernel exploit will be gone, forever.

Participate in the upcoming HEN release of TN-B and be involved in the ninja release by signing up for the /talk forums right here on, and get ready for an exciting future with the days that are to come.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you up this time, get involved.

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