Most will agree that, when it came to online functionality and security, Wii and DS were both below par. Hacking and modding on both systems appears to have been widespread, which not only led to issues with some online games but, most importantly for Nintendo, cost the company money due to the extensive number of pirated games on both systems. Homebrew hacks and flashcarts were all too easy to use, with some helping themselves to hundreds of games without paying a penny.
Although hacking and modding may still be happening, it's been less common and well-known on 3DS, no doubt due to the fact that Nintendo apparently has the ability to 'brick' modded systems from afar. When asked by shareholders about online security, Satoru Iwata made it clear that the significant issues that faced Wii and DS won't recur to the same extent on current and upcoming systems.
In developing the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS, we recognized that security is an extremely important factor for the sake of our business and in making sure that our consumers feel that playing our products is safe. While some acts of piracy are still possible in its DS-compatibility mode, as we had to ensure that the Nintendo DS software could still be played on the Nintendo 3DS, the Nintendo 3DS itself still maintains a robust security system, even after this much time has passed since its launch. Various attempts have so far been made to compromise the security of the system, but of course, security is like a multilayered fire door. Even if the outermost layer is wrenched half open, as long as there are other layers behind it, I do not believe the system will be hacked in an overly short cycle. Of course, security that is designed by humans is never perfect, but at the same time, should our security fail, we have to come up with a way to update the system. These days, hardware features can be “updated” through a network by downloading a new system itself and replacing the old system with the new one. This does indeed enhance the overall security of the system, but in fact, all of our devices before the Nintendo 3DS had one major problem. They were structured in such a way so that unless the user proactively performed a system update him/herself, the update could never be done.
Although consumers knew that it was better to perform system updates, many did not perform them, as it was often the case that they were simply never made aware that they were available. As with smartphones, tablets, computers and operating systems, many devices today have an auto-update feature, where updates are automatically downloaded when there is an Internet connection, and put on standby, and a message that says “Updates are available for your system. Would you like to proceed?” appears later before the user finally installs the updates. At the moment the Nintendo 3DS’s security remains robust, but we have prepared ourselves to minimize the damage should our security fail. Please note that, in a sense, we learned a very bitter lesson from the Nintendo DS and the Wii, and we have put it to good use in designing the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U.
For those that play fair then this is all good news and it's clear that, in terms of online infrastructure and security, Nintendo is modernising and upping its game.