Hackers Steal And Leak Xbox One SDK Claiming Advancement In Openness And Homebrew Apps
Microsoft, it seems, just can't catch a break. Days after a major hack took its servers offline on Christmas and after being lambasted in multiple stories for shipping games like Halo: The Master Chief Collection in nigh-unplayable condition, the company's Xbox One SDK has been leaked to the public by a group calling itself H4LT.
H4LT, which apparently objects to being called a hacker group, offered this explanation when asked why it was distributing the SDK. The group claims that:
We leaked it to the community because if something is shared then.. progress is achieved faster than alone. Something kept between us will not achieve anything. Share it with the community = creativity and research. Shared is how it should be. The SDK will basically allow the community to reverse and open doors towards homebrew applications being present on the Xbox One.
That's Noble Intent At Least -- But Will It Work?
To be clear, what H4LT has done is a far cry from groups like Lizard Squad. The SDK for any given product is typically available behind some degree of registration, but they don't necessarily cost any money. If you want to download NVIDIA's code samples for CUDA, its SDK, or its various example code, you can do that by registering with the company. Other products, like GameWorks, are kept apart for paying licensees, but the simple fact that this is an SDK doesn't mean it was snuck out of a vault by a crack team of international operatives.
With that said, there are some interesting tidbits of information and some cool programs. The SDK includes Microsoft's Pix (Performance Investigator for Xbox), which itself reveals that the Xbox One's seventh core is considered optional for game programming. There are also multiple Xbox Kinect tools, including the Kinect Studio (shown below) and the Kinect Visual Gesture Builder.
There's also an app for testing and creating applications that listen for speech -- another function critically tied to the Kinect unit. One of the interesting things about the suite, in fact, is the degree to which its included applications are Kinect-centric. Many of the included applications are explicitly designed to make writing code for Kinect easier or to enable its various functions. For all the heat Microsoft took over its decision to include the peripheral, it's obvious that the company was committed to creating the backend applications that were necessary for a robust Kinect ecosystem.
The group has also stated that:
Once the SDK is out, people who have knowledge or has in the past reversed files related to the Windows (8) operating system should definitely have a go at reversing some files in there. Why? Well, the Xbox One is practically a stripped Windows 8 device and has introduced a new package format that hasn't had much attention. This format is responsible for updating the console and storing applications (Games are under the category of 'Applications' on the Xbox One) and is a modification of Virtual Hard Disks. There is no definite 'exploit' but from what we have studied and tested, this simple Packaging format could possibly lead us to creating Homebrew applications for the Xbox One.This suggests, at best, that the SDK is one small component of creating the ecosystem that would be necessary to get homebrew up and running on the platform. Whether or not users will ever pull it off is an open question. Most of the last-generation consoles had relatively small homebrew markets, save for the Wii -- changing that will require considerably more than just the SDK.