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Last Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Microsoft aims for hack-proof 360
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 is due to go on sale before Christmas
Microsoft plans to make its next generation games console, the Xbox 360, as difficult as possible to hack.

The 360 will have security built directly into the hardware, said Xbox engineer Chris Satchell.

Fans have modified the first Xbox to turn it into a media centre, upgrade the hard drive or allow it to play imported games.

Modifying a console is illegal in the UK if this is intended to get around anti-piracy measures on the Xbox.

Consoles such as the Xbox and PlayStation 2 can be modified by chips that are soldered to a console's main circuit board to bypass copyright controls.

The chips allow people to play games purchased legitimately in other countries, as well as running backup copies or bootleg discs.

Shortly after the first Xbox came out, computer scientists, smart amateur engineers and others started taking it apart and creating modification chips and software for the machine to make it do things Microsoft never intended it to.

Custom design

Such actions are frowned upon by the hardware manufacturers. In July last year, Sony won a court case to ban the selling of mod chips for its PlayStation 2 in the UK.

There are going to be levels of security in this box that the hacker community has never seen before
Chris Satchell, Xbox
In July of this year, a 22-year-old man became the first person in the UK to be convicted for modifying a video games console.

With the 360, Microsoft is aiming to make it as hard as possible to hack.

"We've taken security to the hardware level and built it in from the ground up," said Chris Satchell from the Xbox Advanced Technology Group.

"One of the reasons we went with custom hardware design for all our silicon is that it allows us to build security at the silicon level," he told the BBC News website.

"There are going to be levels of security in this box that the hacker community has never seen before."

Part of the motivation behind this is to prevent people from using the 360 to watch pirated films or TV shows.

But Mr Satchell admitted no system was fool-proof and that, with enough time and dedication, the security on the Xbox 360 would be broken.

"There're some really bright people in the world with some really expensive hardware," he said.

"I'm sure sooner or later someone will work out how to circumvent security. But the way we have done the design doesn't mean that it will work on somebody else's machine."

Microsoft's 360 is set to be the first of the new wave of games machines to hit the shops sometime before Christmas.

The basic Xbox 360, dubbed the Core System, will retail for $299 in the US, 299 euros in Europe and 209 in the UK.

The fully loaded console with all the accessories will sell for $399, 399 euros and 279. Sony's PlayStation 3 is due to be released early next year, with Nintendo's Revolution following later.

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