Prior to 10/31/2016 you risked a lawsuit every time you reverse-engineered your device’s software guts to dig up their security vulnerabilities – Today it is LEGAL!
A new exemption to the decades-old law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act quietly kicked in, carving out protections for Americans to hack their own devices without fear that the DMCA’s ban on circumventing protections on copyrighted systems would allow manufacturers to sue them. One exemption, crucially, will allow new forms of security research on those consumer devices. Another allows for the digital repair of vehicles. Together, the security community and DIYers are hoping those protections, which were enacted by the Library of Congress’s Copyright Office in October of 2015 but delayed a full year, will spark a new era of benevolent hacking for both research and repair.
For now, the exemptions are limited to a two-year trial period. And the security research exemption in particular only applies to what the Copyright Office calls “good-faith” testing, “in a controlled environment designed to avoid any harm to individuals or to the public.” As Matwyshyn puts it, “We’re not talking about testing your neighbor’s pacemaker while it’s implanted. We’re talking about a controlled lab and a device owned by the researcher.”
The new DMCA exemptions don’t mean open season for hackers—even the friendly, research-focused kind. Aside from the Copyright Office’s “good-faith” restrictions, researchers can still be sued or prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if, for instance, they’re determined to be gaining “unauthorized access” to a computer they don’t own. The measure allows research on personal devices, but not the internet services to which they connect.
Basically DON’T HACK ANYTHING YOU DON’T OWN.
Section 1201 of the DMCA has for years forbidden hackers from reverse-engineering many computer systems—even ones that they owned—in an attempt to prevent Americans from circumventing protections on the intellectual property of manufacturers. Sony used the law, for instance, to sue reverse-engineer George Hotz for hacking the Sony Playstation to allow it to run unauthorized software. (Sony and Hotz eventually settled that lawsuit in 2011, after Hotz agreed to stop reverse0engineering Sony’s products.)
So have at it! Mod your consoles, hack your consoles do what you want. As long as you’re not pirating content or using your devices for malicious activity