The Nintendo Switch has been on the market fot just over four months at this point, and it’s definitely a hot product. Millions of people have been clamoring to get their hands on the system, with units usually selling out within minute when restocks occur. The Switch isn’t just popular with general consumers, it also has the attention of the Nintendo hacking community.
A Twitter user that simply goes by the username “Derrek” describes himself as a ‘Vulnerability Researcher’. In other words, he’s a hacker. Speaking of which, it looks like him and his team have gained access to the Switch’s kernel:
— derrek (@derrekr6) July 9, 2017
So, what does this mean? Well, the ‘brain’ of any computer system is the motherboard. As you should know, the motherboard needs a set of instructions in order to actually function. That’s where the kernel comes in: it houses all the lines of code that control the various parts of the systems; this includes things like operations for the OS, controlling the various hardware components, and so on. Gaining access to the kernel means that users will basically be able to do as they please with the system, even making it perform new operations that it was never originally intended for. For example, the Wii does not have native support for DVD playback, but with a little soft-modding, you can use the system to do just that.
Although Derrek and his team have gained access to the kernel, a full breach has still not happened yet. They need to search for vulnerabilities in order to completely penetrate the system. Think of it like breaking into a bank, and you’re right in front of the vault, but it’s surrounded by security lasers. So, the lasers need to be deactivated or circumvented before you can actually get into the vault itself.
How is this situation going to turn out? Well, Nintendo has most definitely caught wind of the situation, and it’s highly likely that its dispatched its software developers to scour the Switch’s system and cover any gaping holes that could be exploited. Don’t be surprised if a small new system update is released within the next few days. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see what Derrek and his team’s next move will be. Over the past few months, Nintendo has actually been rallying support from the hacking community to assist in finding any security vulnerabilities with the 3DS and Switch’s OS. Anytime an exploit is found by the hackers, Nintendo actually pays them for their work. Think of it like digital bounty hunting.
That means that perhaps Derrek and his team will actually turn over their findings to Nintendo instead of releasing it to the general public. After all, giving Nintendo the info would actually result in monetary compensation, rather than releasing the exploits to the public for free. But, even if they do chose to go to Nintendo, there’s still the possibility that eventually an exploit will be released to the public, as we’ve seen with so many systems in the past.