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Can a PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo go viral?

Can a PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo go viral?

Can you get infected with a virus or trojan on gaming consoles like PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo?

Daniel Boddy

03/26/2024 – Short answer: Yes! But, just to confuse everyone, I'd rather say yes and no. First of all, it is worth asking a very important question: who and why create viruses that are dangerous for all types of devices and spread on the Internet using various tricky methods?

Many viruses are created by programmers who may not use the malware themselves later, but simply upload it to specialized dark web markets to make money from it. Here hacker teams buy people who are not necessarily interested in writing the core software, but rather buy software that they can either use 1:1 or even develop further. But, of course, there are also criminal gangs who prefer to handle everything in-house.

The sole goal of hackers, which is the same as for many of us, is to make money, and there are several possible ways to achieve this, including:

  • They can cripple a company using ransomware and demand a ransom,
  • By infecting different devices, they can also collect personal data, which they turn into (small) money on the dark web,
  • They may even fly directly to your bank statements.

Obviously, the first type is not encountered very often by the average person, while the other two types are more common. Personal data should be collected from devices that can be more easily attacked due to their systems, have a large user base, and are also used by potential victims for multiple purposes, thus maximizing the amount of data that can be collected. The most ideal tool for this is the mobile phone – which people and computers now use for everything. Banking data can also be stolen by viruses and their Trojans, but due to multiple and increasingly stringent authentication methods, they often try fake websites, fake SMS or calls that look real.

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However, on the console there is a great deal of personal data: they won't find much beyond the user's video game tastes and scores. This is precisely why it's not worth the effort: creating console-specific malware is simply too complex and has very little “return”, so hackers and malicious coders focus their attention on the platforms where they can inflict the highest number of victims at the highest rate. Success rate.

Anything that can run code can be infected.

At the same time, video game consoles – whether PlayStation 4-5 or Xbox One and Series, being machines that perform calculations and run codes, are quite suitable and capable of being infected with a virus – of some kind – . However, these systems run in closed systems, which haven't actually been hacked yet – even copied games can't be played with a PS5 or Xbox Series. Meanwhile, spreading Trojans using cracked games is a common method on PC, but for this to happen on a similar console, the system itself must be compromised first.

However, this is difficult, as it is very difficult for the average console player to obtain malware, which is done elsewhere on websites and through downloads. However, a PS-Xbox user rarely uses the console to browse, usually plays games, or uses applications downloaded from the official store, so viruses spread on websites are more likely to target other devices. In addition, without an official (and very expensive) SDK, it is difficult to write a virus on the console, at least very complex. Especially since each system is completely unique, the vulnerabilities are not the same, so the malware must be written separately for Xbox and PlayStation, which is difficult and uneconomical to integrate into a hacker gang's operation.

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Of course, in the history of gaming, there have been examples of viruses infecting old consoles, but they were not useful for things other than destroying the device. Nowadays, if a gamer's data is requested, they will most likely send him some sort of spam in the name of Sony/PlayStation and/or Microsoft/Xbox, and perhaps try to hack the player's profile, but there have also been examples of manufacturers being actively attacked. Directly for the same information. The result is exactly the same, but with less power.

So, theoretically, it is possible that the PS-Xbox-Nintendo virus exists, but since it is very complex and completely uneconomical, attackers are not interested in it either. And if someone uses the gaming console as intended, the chance of getting any malware is practically nil.

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