Nintendo has begun to crack down on Switch hackers and pirates, which have been prevalent for some time now. The problem with the Switch hack, as opposed to the hacks used in previous consoles, is that Switch hackers use a backdoor located in the system’s hardware, not the software. This means that Nintendo is flat out of luck; The Switch hacking method is impossible to patch.
What’s more, hackers have been making big, ahem, ‘modifications’ to Nintendo’s products. Aside from the usual mix of pirated titles, users have been able to install hacks for online titles such as Splatoon 2 such as an Aimbot, unlimited ink, unlimited super, and unlimited range. There have also been a few rumors that users have been able to hack Splatoon 2 so severely that they’ve been able to force a match on an unreleased Splatoon 2 DLC map, although there was been no footage of this event nor screenshots of the maps.
The largest problem is the pirated games, however. Since this hack is through hardware, hackers don’t have to worry about keeping a backlog of new hack routes in case Nintendo blocks them out. They’ve gotten quite good at distributing their illegal software. But Nintendo still has a few tricks up their sleeves.
These methods, described in a Reddit post by hacker SciresM, include the logging and banning an encrypted piece of code unique to each Switch known as the “TrustZone”. When a user tries to log their switch online, Nintendo does a background check and scans the user’s TrustZone code. If something comes up sour in the code and the system determines it to be a code not issued by an official party, bam! The switch in question is banned from using online services, forever.
In addition, all Switch games have their own “TrustZone” codes that Nintendo checks for every time the console goes online. When a game is downloaded or a chip is placed into the system, that game’s code is logged in with the system. So if a game has been pirated, then the system is banned, whether or not that game was actually a physical purchase. What’s more is that Nintendo will also log info on the games themselves, identifying what console first tried to play that game.
This ups the ante of potential danger tremendously: If a user’s switch is banned and they sell their games online, the user who buys the games will have their Switch banned from online services for trying to use the games. And there’s no way to authenticate before the ban happens. There’s no way to tell whether a purchased used game will or will not get a user banned, so there’s no easy solution for salesmen of third-party games, either. The store selling the games has three options: Either test each third-party game at the cost of one full Nintendo Switch per banned game, refuse the sale of used Switch games altogether, or front that risk onto the users and (hopefully) offer a word of caution before the purchase of a used Switch game.
But since these codes are only checked once a Switch goes online, is it possible that a user could pirate games and go online with their legal games so long as they stay totally offline with their illegal games? Probably not; since this is such an obvious loophole, its very likely that Nintendo will introduce some kind of software to log the TrustZone codes of games even when played online, instantly banning the console in question as soon as it tries to log on, even with a different game.
Moral of the story: If you want to play your Switch online, don’t pirate games. Nintendo has proven time and time again that they’re not afraid to go overboard to wipe pirates off the planet, so think twice before you try to grab all those tasty looking Switch games off some illegal site.