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Riot stands by extreme anti-cheat procedures despite past failures

Riot continues to address players’ concerns regarding the suspicious nature of Vanguard, their anti-cheat software. Vanguard initializes before a Riot product is run and slows down certain systems. Cheats have already breached Vanguard, but hackers could do much worse. Software that operated similar to Vanguard has created exploitable vulnerabilities on user systems in the past.

Riot addresses the concerns of gamers

The unusual way Vanguard protects gamers from cheaters has drawn enough attention for Riot to officially step in. Riot released a message about Vanguard following developer, RiotArkham, answering questions online. RiotArkham confirmed that Vanguard works around the normal restrictions of a system. Riot’s recent message appeals to gamers to trust that Vanguard’s only function is upholding competitive integrity. The post states that “Riot does not want to know more about you or your machine than what is necessary to maintain high integrity in your game… we wouldn’t work here if we didn’t deeply care about player trust and privacy and believe that Riot feels the same way.” Riot says they don’t want user data, but Vanguard has access to it.

Committed to re-establishing trust with players, Riot is offering $100,000 to anyone who can hack Vanguard and prove it has vulnerabilities. Three months ago, Riot emphasized to gamers that Vanguard must be unrestricted for their own safety. The post states that “it will be significantly harder to create undetected cheats” with unrestricted access.

Remaining adamant that Vanguard must continue to operate unrestricted to maintain competitive integrity, Riot announced the hacking bounty: “alongside our new game VALORANT, we have deployed our new anti-cheat solution Vanguard that leverages a kernel driver to combat cheaters more effectively. To reinforce our commitment to our players’ security, we are offering special bounties for up to $100,000 for high quality reports that demonstrate practical exploits leveraging the Vanguard kernel driver.”

Vulnerabilities or not, Vanguard’s unrestricted access to users’ systems is here to stay.

Hackers have already cracked Vanguard

Despite Riot’s domineering approach to anti-cheat, Vanguard has been bested by hackers. Aimbots and wallhacks have already breached the anti-cheat software. The closed beta isn’t safe, and cheaters have been recorded exploiting by live streamers. Valorant’s made-for-esports marketing will crumble if cheaters run rampant because an unfair advantage will tarnish competitive integrity.

Software that behaves like Vanguard has put users at risk in the past, regardless of the developer’s intent. In 2005, Sony BMG was caught in a scandal because of its copy protection rootkit. Sony’s copy-protection software operated like Vanguard. With access to the highest privilege level of a system, the software could ensure no illegal actions were executed. Despite the developer trying to stop music piracy, unrelated malware was able to exploit the software and compromise the system it was installed on. If compromised, Vanguard’s architecture may allow hackers unrestricted access to users’ systems.

Has Riot gone too far in the name of player security or are they doing everything they can to stop hackers? What happens to users’ systems if Vanguard is compromised by a hacker? Follow Slashshout on Twitter and let us know what you think of Riot’s anti-cheat antics.

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