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Anti-fraud technology seems to be the new DRM. With that said, as the gaming industry dives deeper into the competitive online gaming scene, the threat of piracy has turned into a threat of fraud. And the anti-cheat technology that companies are using is starting to make the game public just itching for more DRM.
Consider that Denuvo’s own anti-cheat technology has started to follow the path of DRM, with reviews-bombing out of games shortly after release. And then, since the VAC platform is designed to sniff out kernel-level cheating, Valve had to assure players that its own anti-cheating technology doesn’t look at user browsing habits. A popular Reddit thread had gamers comparing Valve to Electronic Arts as a result.
EA’s recent announcement of new anti-cheat technology that works at the kernel level probably makes it even more interesting.
EA has announced that the new kernel-level EA Anti-Cheat (EAAC) tools will be released with the PC version of FIFA 23 this month, and will eventually be added to all multiplayer games (including those with online leaderboards). But strictly single-player titles “may implement other anti-cheat technology, such as user mode protections, or forego the use of anti-cheat technology altogether,” Elise Murphy, senior director of game security and anti-cheat, wrote in a Tuesday blog post. Post.
Unlike anti-cheat mechanisms that operate in the operating system’s standard “user mode”, kernel-level anti-cheat tools provide a low-level, system-wide view of how cheat tools can be corrupted by game memory or imported code. That allows anti-fraud developers to detect a wider range of fraud threats, as Murphy explains in an extensive FAQ.
The players’ concerns came quickly. You have to remember that nothing happens outside the context of history. There’s a reason why even today a good portion of the gaming public knows about the Sony rootkit fiasco. You know the claims that DRM affects PC performance like Denuvo’s. You’ve heard a lot of horror stories about game companies, or other software companies, rigging up security tools like this to undermine all kinds of PII or user activity for non-gaming purposes. Hell, one of the most popular antivirus companies recently announced plans to use client machines for crypto-mining.
So it is in that context that EA wants to access the most basic and sensitive components of client PCs to ensure that fewer people can cheat online. FIFA.
Privacy aside, some users may worry that a new kernel-level driver may destabilize or crash the system (Sony’s famous music DRM rootkits). But Murphy said the EAAC was designed to be “as high in performance and light weight as possible.” EAAC has a negligible impact on your gameplay.
Kernel-level tools can provide an attractive new attack surface for low-level security exploits on a user’s system. To that end, Murphy says her team “works with independent, 3rd-party security and privacy reviewers to ensure EAAC doesn’t compromise your PC’s security and to ensure strict data privacy boundaries.” She promises to try daily to resolve any issues that may arise and to provide constant reporting follow-up.
Players have heard these promises before. Those promises have been dashed before. Teasing the public into thinking that kernel-level access to their machines will keep online games from riding with cheaters is a tough sell.
Filed under: anti-cheat, kernel, security, video games