Update: It seems that Sony has closed this loophole. However, if you own a PS3, there is another way.
(Sadly, they did not give me a spot at the Sony E3 conference, so I have to make do with this blog post.) I am excited to announce Rejuvenate, a native homebrew platform for PS Vita. The tools that will be released through the next couple of weeks will allow developers (not in contract with Sony) to develop and test games, apps, and more on the PS Vita. These unofficial software can run on any PS Vita handheld device without approval by Sony. These tools cannot enable pirated or backup games to run (I’m not just saying this… the exploits used does not have enough privilege to enable such tasks). Rejuvenate requires PlayStation Mobile Development Assistant to be installed on your Vita! Sony will remove this from PSN soon, so if you wish to ever run homebrew apps on your PS Vita, you must download this app now!
Most of our embedded devices use eMMC, but security into eMMC (as far as I know) has not been extensively studied or taken account of in threat models. In the small sample of devices I’ve looked at, the ability to send raw commands to the eMMC only requires kernel access. If you look at the Android platform, kernel hacks are not uncommon and remote kernel hacks are also not a rarity. There are certain commands that a hacker can send which can permanently disable (brick) a device.
One of largest barrier to native PS Vita homebrew is the lack of an open toolchain and SDK. Essentially, we need something like pspsdk for the Vita. The reason why we don’t have it is because there are people who have an understanding of how the Vita’s executable format works but lack the time to code up the tools and there are people who have the time and ability to create such tools but lack the knowledge of Vita’s internals. The solution, I believe is to publish a comprehensive document detailing how the Vita’s executable format is laid out and the requirements for an open toolchain. Anyone with coding skills can now work on an open SDK; no Vita knowledge required!
PlayStation Mobile (PSM) for those unaware is Sony’s platform for indie game developers. They have decided to start shutting down the service after May 31, 2015. Before then, I think it would be wise for everyone (not just game developers) to sign up for an account (it’s free!), set up the developer assistant on their Vita, and run at least one sample application. If you don’t try this platform out and see what it has to offer, you might regret it.