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New League of Legends anti-cheat raises privacy concerns

Riot is introducing a new anti-cheat system into League of Legends and Project A but the new system has raised privacy concerns because it gives Riot complete control over your computer.
New League of Legends anti-cheat raises privacy concerns
  • Riot's new anti-cheat will be implemented into League of Legends and Project A
  • Gives Riot complete control over your system using a 'kernel driver'
  • In a blog post Riot attempted to assuage gamers' fears

League of Legend developers Riot have been developing a pioneering anti-cheat system and want you to know they are not attempting to hack your computer.

In a humorous blog post Riot’s anti-cheat developer Phil Koskinas explained the history of cheats, anti-cheat measures and why Riot has decided to take the measures they have.

To make it as simple as possible - applications on your computer run in user-mode, and can only interact with your windows operating system in a restrictive way. This is the same access that Riot’s current anti-cheat system has.

This system has obvious faults because cheat developers don’t play by the rules, by finding exploits and vulnerabilities in Windows they run their cheats and ‘anti-anticheats’ in kernel mode - an area of your system that Riot can currently not monitor and which Koskinkas likens to “giving cheaters a much-needed, twelve-stroke handicap.”

Riot’s plan to counter this is by creating an anti-cheat that has access to your computer’s kernel using a ‘kernel driver’ which may be a cause for concern for some users - as giving kernel access to a program gives it complete control over your system.

Koskinas attempted to allay those concerns, writing that “this isn’t giving us any surveillance capability we didn’t already have. [...] The purpose of this upgrade is to monitor system state for integrity (so we can trust our data) and to make it harder for cheaters to tamper with our games.”

Riot’s new anti-cheat system is expected to be rolled out in Project A, their new FPS game set to come out later this year, before being added to League of Legends at a later date.


Should Riot’s New Anti-Cheat System Be A Cause For Concern?

Project A League of Legends Riot New Anti Cheat System


Riot wants to be able to have complete control of your computer in the battle against cheaters. And while it is hard to question the employees of Riot - questions have to be asked about how much control they have other how their products are used.

Riot has in the past shown their acquiescence to politically sensitive issues for Tencent. They released a statement saying that casters and players shouldn’t share “sensitive topics,” such as politics or religion in live broadcasts - prompted when viewers noticed casters weren't saying the full name of the "Hong Kong Attitude" during official League of Legends broadcasts.

This is all part of a much bigger story between the US and China and the growing trade war these countries are engaged in. Two of China’s biggest tech companies - Huawei and ZTE are currently attempting to stop the US from designating them as ‘national security risks.’ A status given to them after long-standing concerns of backdoor access hardwired into their products and ultimately controlled by the Chinese authorities.

Tencent too has a long history of cooperating with the Chinese government with the information flow between private companies and the government more of a revolving door than a request for access - data which is used to “hunt down criminal suspects and silence political dissent.”

This may seem like doom-mongering and it has to be noted though that Riot is not the first anti-cheat system to use a ‘kernel driver’ 3rd party anti-cheat systems such as EasyAntiCheat, Battleye, and Xigncode3 have been using them for a while. 

But in the ever-escalating battle against cheaters how badly do we want to stop them and at what cost?

Ultimately it may not be a question, we the gamers, have to answer. In Riot’s announcement, they stressed that we had nothing to worry about, but it may be the worlds’ governments they have to convince.

Correction: the original version of this article stated that Riot Games banned professional Hearthstone player Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung, this is incorrect. Blizzard Activision, the developers of Hearthstone, were responsible for the ban. Tencent has stakes in both companies, owning 94% of Riot Games and 4.9% of Blizzard Activision.