Those who sail the high seas in search of 3DS games might be in for choppy waters. Nintendo just released a firmware update for the handheld that beefs up its ability to detect when a game is pirated. Apparently this measure is quite robust, with Nintendo hacking communities and even one of the foremost 3DS dataminers weighing in on how difficult it will be to crack.
The new anti-piracy features were announced by ScriesM, a well-known hacker in the Nintendo fandom. ScriesM is recognized for his contributions to the Pokémon scene in particular. Being a Pokémon authority, he has an intimate knowledge of the software and firmware of the 3DS. Once he discovered the implications of the latest firmware update, 11.8.0, he shared them via Twitter.
Looks like 11.8.0 backports the Switch's aauth ideas to 3ds -- network comms now send an encrypted(?) copy of app ticket to the server.— Michael (@SciresM) July 31, 2018
They may not act on it immediately, but like on Switch this lets N perfectly detect pirate accesses vs normal ones, and ban however they like.
There's obviously a lot of specialized knowledge behind what he's saying, but the simple version is that Nintendo's server now checks the "tickets" of 3DS games when they're played online. If the check reveals the ticket in question is attached to a pirated game, Nintendo can issue an immediate ban from online services.
ScriesM notes that it's very easy to tell the difference between a pirated ticket and a legitimate one, and since the check happens on Nintendo's server there's no way for hackers to gain access and bypass it. The only way to play pirated games and not activate the check is to keep the 3DS completely offline.
via: youtube (Isleep2late)[/caption]
To further illustrate the strength of the new anti-piracy measures, ScriesM points to the Switch. These "near-unbreakable" measures that are new to the 3DS have been active on the Switch for weeks. There's a post on the "SwitchHacks" subreddit that outlines the severity of the piracy detection system. You can read it at this link for a very detailed explanation of how it works and why hackers see it as so significant. In the end, the post's author concludes that "These are extremely strong anti-piracy measures -- Nintendo did a great job, here."
That's definitive praise, but the battle between Nintendo and video game piracy has raged on for decades. Every time Nintendo thinks it's sunk hackers and pirates, someone comes up with a new trick. So despite how strong this new measure seems, it's probably only a matter of time before someone finds a workaround. Of course, there will always be one easy way to slip by anti-piracy measures– just buy the games.