The end of the hacker era

After reading and contemplating the commentary of John Wu, the Magisk developer, on Google’s introduction of the Trusted Execution Environment to its SafetyNet platform, I am obliged to agree with him. Rooting is dead.

If it is possible to build a cryptographically secure platform, inside the chip, that verifies if the rest of the device has been untampered with, then there are no hardware modifications that can be made. Modchips are dead.

Today’s devices really are nothing more than a single immutable chip, with certain functionality burned into it. If we want to modify it, we try to exploit its current functionality. And if it doesn’t work and can’t be modified, then we throw it away.

Thanks to advancements in semiconductor technology, things work and can’t be modified.

I think that one of our greatest motivations as hackers during our formative years was being able to take something that works and tweak it ever so slightly. We played games, so we hacked our save data and modded our characters. So now we could play that same game, but with a touch of “us.” There was a sense of ownership, a sense of stake.

With the looming presence of an ever-connected Internet and the growing complexity of our computing machinery, it’s becoming impossible to make the machine just do what we want it to do.

There will always be “toys” to hack with – microcontrollers, game SDKs, breadboards – but the prized hardware and software, the computer we do our work with, might never be fully hackable again.

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