For the past few months, we’ve published a few stories about the growing hacking scene on the Nintendo Switch. The ongoing saga has now apparently taken an interesting turn. According to recent reports from members of the hacking/homebrew community, a subtle hardware revision has apparently been rolled out into the wild. These revised models of the Switch contain a new bootROM which has been configured to be impervious to the hacking methods that were used in what can now be considered the ‘model 1’ Switch units.
This leaves hackers with only two real options. For one, they’ll have to stick with their model 1 Switch units from now on. If anything happens to those units, they won’t be able to make any more progress. That is, until the new revised systems are broken into. Of course, there’s no real guarantee that these revised models will be cracked open like the model 1 units, but it still makes sense to keep that as a potential outcome that could manifest within the next few months. Still, for Nintendo to go ahead and release a hardware revision, it shows that the company is very much aware of all the different tricks that hackers have up their sleeves and thus the company is doing what it can to thwart the efforts of the Switch hacking community. It is not yet known how strong the revised units are, but current hacking methods simply fall flat.
Of course, Nintendo has not publically announced that these revised units are now being sent out to retailers. Small hardware revisions are a common occurrence for most game systems. While it’s sometimes done to make the manufacturing process easier/cheaper, there have been cases in the past similar to this one where the main reason for the revision is due to trying to patch up security holes in a system’s hardware.
Still, Nintendo can’t rest easy just yet. There are millions of model 1 Switch units out there and it appears that nothing can really be done to fully protect them from the physical hacking methods that hackers have been using up until now. So, once all remaining stock of these early versions of the system are sold out, there’s a chance that second-hand sellers will list them for very high prices due to them technically being worth more for hacking purposes. The most Nintendo can do about these units is what its already been doing: basically playing a game of cat and mouse with hackers. It was recently discovered that serious security measures were already implemented by Nintendo in the model 1 Switch units. Some of these measures include the system being programmed to constantly ping Nintendo’s servers for verification (which also applies to all physical/digital games in an effort to combat piracy). Nintendo has also banned not only hacked Switch consoles, but even untouched systems that belong to hackers and are connected to the same Nintendo Account as the hacked units.
Hopefully, the new hardware revision of the Switch will remain secure for a longer period of time than the original model. The reason why the Switch hacking scene took off so quickly is due to the system using a pretty much off-the-shelf model of Nvidia’s Tegra X1 chipset. Hackers were thus able to take advantage of security holes that were already well-known for this chip, Nintendo and Nvidia have clearly learned their lesson from this situation.