Hackers are now hard modding their Nintendo Switch

The mod allows homebrew code to be executed permanently after installation

Posted by Ashley King on July 1, 2018

Nintendo has been very careful about piracy after the heyday of piracy during the Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS days, even going so far as to ship the Nintendo Switch without a working web browser. However, it appears as though hackers have discovered a hardware exploit that works on all current versions of the Nintendo Switch. Once installed, homebrew code can be executed on the console permanently.

The installation of an Adafruit Trinket MO can be done by removing wires and soldering them to a different point on the Switch's internal capacitor. This is much more detailed than the hacked game carts that were prevalent in the era of the Nintendo DS, so it's not exactly accessible by anyone. However, once installed it provides a permanent way to run modified code on the Nintendo Switch.

Once installed, the hard mod is wired up to the USB-C connector so it can be powered to handle the exploit that is required to run each time the Switch is rebooted. You can see a modded Switch with the exploit in the video below.

Because this is a hardware exploit, Nintendo has no way to stop it aside from modifying the Switch through a hardware revision. The Trinket M0 itself uses the Switch's USB port to update the firmware and deliver new payloads to the Switch, but the hackers who created the exploit believe it will be a matter of time before this can be refined so you won't need to perform the exploit every time you boot the system.

Obviously this situation isn't ideal for Nintendo since they want to prevent the system from succumbing to piracy. It will be interesting to see if a cease and desist is sent out to the hackers responsible for this, similar to what Sony did to GeoHot when he discovered an easy and near painless way to mod PSP devices to run custom firmware.

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