Gabe Newell on Valve’s VAC system: No, it does not scan your browser history

Hacker

By on February 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Nasty rumours flying around about just how invasive Valve’s Anti-Cheat (VAC) software had become, including that it accessed your browser history, have been quashed by Gabe Newell in a Reddit Q&A posted up last night.

In the post which you can see here, Newell explained that “We don’t usually talk about VAC (our counter-hacking hacks), because it creates more opportunities for cheaters to attack the system (through writing code or social engineering),” but that “this time is going to be an exception”.

“Cheat developers have a problem in getting cheaters to actually pay them for all the obvious reasons, so they start creating DRM and anti-cheat code for their cheats. These cheats phone home to a DRM server that confirms that a cheater has actually paid to use the cheat,” said Newell.

“VAC checked for the presence of these cheats. If they were detected VAC then checked to see which cheat DRM server was being contacted. This second check was done by looking for a partial match to those (non-web) cheat DRM servers in the DNS cache. If found, then hashes of the matching DNS entries were sent to the VAC servers. The match was double checked on our servers and then that client was marked for a future ban. Less than a tenth of one percent of clients triggered the second check. 570 cheaters are being banned as a result.”

“Cheat versus trust is an ongoing cat-and-mouse game. New cheats are created all the time, detected, banned, and tweaked. This specific VAC test for this specific round of cheats was effective for 13 days, which is fairly typical. It is now no longer active as the cheat providers have worked around it by manipulating the DNS cache of their customers’ client machines. Kernel-level cheats are expensive to create, and they are expensive to detect. Our goal is to make them more expensive for cheaters and cheat creators than the economic benefits they can reasonably expect to gain.”

If that’s all a bit TL;DR, Newell posted a short summary at the bottom:

1) Do we send your browsing history to Valve? No.
2) Do we care what porn sites you visit? Oh, dear god, no. My brain just melted.
3) Is Valve using its market success to go evil? I don’t think so, but you have to make the call if we are trustworthy. We try really hard to earn and keep your trust.

So there you go.

Source: Reddit

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11 comments (Leave your own)

One of the typical responses to this affair that I kept seeing even after Gabe’s post was along the lines of, “if this was EA instead of Valve you’d still be outraged”.

And no, I wouldn’t. Not even remotely. It’s not as if they were sending the entire cache to Valve. They didn’t even touch the cache unless a cheat was already detected by VAC and all it did then was look for the specific entry used by the cheat and send a hash of said entry back for analysis. None of this strikes me as a violation of user privacy and to be honest, it seems like the typical sort of thing an anti-cheat program would do. If someone told me PunkBuster did the exact same thing, I would be neither surprised nor outraged.

 

nacimota,

Welcome to the internet! Where people get angry about trivial things because they don’t have real problems.

 

Here’s an idea. Use the legal system to go after cheat makers.

I’m surprised more companies haven’t seen this opportunity yet.

 

PalZer0,

I’m sure the lawyers would have a field day with that one. It’ll be as effective as prosecuting online piracy.

 

Some game companies (Blizzard off the top of my head) have used legal avenues against hack creators, dunno if anything came of it though (And I’m far too lazy to check lol)

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/10/18/blizzard-suing-creators-of-starcraft-ii-hacks/

 

I dont have a problem with it scanning for known cheat systems.
As long as it only looks for multiplayer hacks.

I quite like using Trainers on a second or third playthrough and if it caught trainers and banned me I’d be mighty fucking pissed.

 

Cheats with DRM???? Oh the irony.

 

makena,

An incredibly popular Bot got banned… other than that nothing… Honestly it created alot more problems than it solved…

 

I find it hard to believe that Valve wouldn’t have talked long and hard with their legal team about going down that path.

Part of the problem in going after cheat creators is the cross-jurisdictional issues that inevitably come up. Sure, if the creator is a US citizen, you might be able to drag him before the courts. But what if he’s in China? Russia? Uzbekistan? The same sort of complications come into play when hunting kiddie porn suppliers or criminal malware creators. But, as you can imagine, someone making a few hundred thousand dollars with an aimbot cheat for Battlefield 4 is not going to very high on any foreign police officer’s list when they’re busy with far more costly and heinous crimes like some of those listed above. I’d imagine it’s far more effort than its worth.

 

PalZer0:
Here’s an idea. Use the legal system to go after cheat makers.

I’m surprised more companies haven’t seen this opportunity yet.

Using which law?

Cheats don’t generally interact with anything other then the client and its the user who makes the choice to run the cheat, so there isn’t a law which cheat makers are breaking.
Its not like we’re talking about hackers breaking into a server owned by the company.

Then on top of that how do you plan to enforce something that is a law here [or in the USA .etc] on someone in china or india or wherever?

 

c0mc0,

trb,

Wouldn’t need to be criminal law. Would just need to be civil law (suing cheat makers for damages caused by their cheats).

IMO, developers and publishers would have much more success going after cheat makers than they would going after pirates as cheats actually cause damage to the MP experience for legitimate players.

 
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