Yifan Lu dives deep into hardware analysis of the PS Vita

December 23, 2013

You might remember Yifan Lu from a more or less private project of running unsigned code on the PS Vita through a native exploit. Or if you’re not very familiar with that aspect of the vita scene, you might know him as the guy who came up with a jailbreak for the kindle several years ago.

As he stated himself recently, the Vita has been out for 2 years, and nobody has even dumped its NAND yet (at least not publicly), while it happened for the PS4 2 weeks after its release. Deciding to take the matter in his own hands, Yifan Lu started a donation drive to get some hardware in order to look closely at the Vita’s hardware.

Namely, his goal for now is to try and dump the NAND. Now, depending on how well you know computer systems, such a goal might either sound like Klingon to you, or appear to be a trivial task that doesn’t deserve any excitement, or sound like a useless attempts… but let me describe why I think this is very cool.

vita_motherboard

I have no doubt that Sony have made their best to secure the Vita, both from hardware and software perspectives, so you shouldn’t expect a magical and immediate breakthrough from this attempt.

But that’s not why I am excited about this project. As a matter of fact, Yifan Lu admitted to have extremely limited experience in hardware hacking. And, as paradoxical as it may sound, this is exactly why I am interested in his experiment: he promised to document and report all his findings, and I think the project is extremely interesting for all of us who have absolutely no experience in that kind of stuff. His articles, including the donation drive itself, are a nice introduction into the world of hardware hacking, from a “noob’s” perspective.

In his first articles, Yifan Lu describes the hardware he uses, how he uses it, the mistakes he made, etc… That’s the type of information you will never get from seasoned hardware hackers, as they forgot how these basic things simply sound like voodoo magic to the rest of humans. A chosen bit:

“To remove the actual eMMC chip, keep the heat gun directed at the chip for a while, then use your pointy device to try to pry it off. Use a bit of force but not extreme force and be slow with the prying. This is because even though the solder below melts fairly quickly, the chip is held in place with some kind of glue”

Additionally, Yifan Lu has been posting cool pictures of the Vita motherboard, which in themselves are worth the read. Greg describes it better than I would:

vita_nand_pinout

Vitan Nand pinout, as documented by YifanLu

Again, I am not expecting any huge breakthrough from that anytime soon, but the attempt in itself and the experience that Yifan Lu is sharing with us, makes it completely worth it in my opinion. Can’t wait for more articles!

More pictures and detailed articles on YifanLu’s blog

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