FIFA 23 and other EA titles will come with controversial "kernel-mode" anti-cheat software

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,656   +1,122
Staff member
In context: Nothing can ruin a multiplayer game faster than rampant cheating, so it's no surprise that developers go to great lengths to devise ways to mitigate it. One controversial method is to install kernel-mode drivers that monitor for anything that tries to tamper with the game's software. However, many players are not comfortable with granting such low-level privileges.

The latest game publisher to add kernel-level cheat protections is EA. The new EA Anti-Cheat (EAAC) debuts in the upcoming FIFA 23 for PC later this month. Senior Director of Game Security & Anti-Cheat Elise Murphy explained that it would eventually roll out to all of EA's multiplayer competitive titles.

Murphy says this low-level, highest-privileged software operating in the kernel space is necessary because cheating software has become very good at cloaking itself from user-level mitigation by employing similar means.

"For games that are highly competitive and contain many online modes like FIFA 23, kernel-mode protection is absolutely vital," she wrote. "When cheat programs operate in kernel space, they can make their cheat functionally invisible to anti-cheat solutions that live in user-mode. Unfortunately, the last few years have seen a large increase in cheats and cheat techniques operating in kernel-mode, so the only reliable way to detect and block these is to have our anti-cheat operate there as well."

This explanation is all good, except that cheaters voluntarily allow cheat software to run at the vulnerable kernel level. Players installing the latest EA titles do not have a choice but to give the game root privileges. Of course, many will choose not to install EA games, but whether it will be enough for EA to notice remains unseen.

This type of cheat mitigation first started appearing in 2020. League of Legends was one of the earliest games — if not the first — to use a kernel mode anti-cheat called "Vanguard." Riot Games implemented it in Valorant in 2020. Players were worried that such low-level drivers could compromise their privacy. Security researchers were also alarmed, saying that even if effective at detecting cheats, it was still increasing the attack surface of the devices installed with the drivers.

Murphy says that EA has taken every precaution to ensure the privacy and safety of the community. Unlike Vanguard, EAAC only runs while the game is operating. Vanguard's drivers load at system boot and run even while the game is not being played. She also notes that EAAC can be uninstalled separately but that any game that utilizes it will not run until it is re-installed, so what is the point?

"It can also be manually uninstalled by you at any time you choose and will be completely removed from your PC," Murphy said. "Please note that if you uninstall EAAC, any games that require EAAC protection (like FIFA 23) will not be playable until EAAC is reinstalled."

Even though LoL and Valorant players never reported any intrusions connected with the Vanguard software, that does not mean that kernel-mode drivers are safe. On the contrary, last month, hackers began using Genshin Impact's (GI) root-level anti-cheat files to propagate ransomware. Even more concerning is that the exploit can work on systems that have never installed Genshin Impact.

Security analysts say the impact of the GI exploit may be felt for years to come as hackers pass the vulnerable files around hacking communities. No amount of patching Genshin Impact's anti-cheat drivers can reverse what is already out in the wild separate from the game.

Pandora's Box cannot be closed.

Permalink to story.

 

toooooot

Posts: 1,716   +884
PC has most cheats. People abuse it often to get advantage in a popular FUT mode.
For that one reason I support their attempts to prevent cheats.
FUT is fun, cheaters aint.
 

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 3,656   +1,122
Staff member
League of Legends has never, and still does not require Vanguard. They only use it for Valorant.
I was going by Riot's 2019 blog post regarding a still unnamed kernel-mode anti-cheat (later known as Vanguard) under development for LoL. They may have decided against using it in LoL at some point, but indications were that they were employing kernel-level mitigation in LoL. If you can provide a source to the contrary, we will gladly make a correction. :)
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,297   +950
Not on my PC thank you - they really need to develop AI to analyse players from the server end .
On the PS5 /Xbox etc - wouldn't have such a problem if they work with Sony and MS .

Ultimately AI is way to go - players with good skills and reflexes will be graded accordingly - profiles with multiple family members will be taken into account - eg my wife plays fornite - when she gets to 5 left - she gets yo young son to go for BR ( he snaps onto a target instantly- well compared to her - I don't play it )
 

Kam7r

Posts: 124   +247
PC has most cheats. People abuse it often to get advantage in a popular FUT mode.
For that one reason I support their attempts to prevent cheats.
FUT is fun, cheaters aint.
FuT is a Gacha game, and I think this type of "game" who only exist to screw ppl in wasting all their money should be banned, simple... at least in the EU
 

DSirius

Posts: 366   +760
TechSpot Elite
Gamers also counter-announce that they prefer buying games from GOG platform because games from GOG are DRM free :)

And I am not installing or giving any root-admin access to EA spying software disguised as EA-anticheat even if they pay me.

I was a "beta" tester for Valorant. Their anti-cheat Vanguard mess my Windows so bad that I could not play the game without major issues. So I stopped playing games with kernel root access disguised as anti-cheat measures.
Is not worth it.
 
Last edited:

alexnode

Posts: 91   +32
I never play MMOs, only couch co-op or invite only games with friends. Human fall flat , minecraft, ultimate chicken etc. I am pretty certain that these things will be installed in my gaming PC without my permission.
 

alexnode

Posts: 91   +32
I also love cheating in single player games. Red dead redemption 2 needed 3 months of play to max your character. Very grindy, but because of online mode (that I don't own ) I couldn't cheat. Anno 1800 is the same. While rimworld, and Total war are the best games to cheat. Cheating in rimworld is amazing. I am not sure if there are people who don't cheat in that game ...
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 9,276   +8,440
Anything that stops "cheaters" is welcome, but not if it sacrifices the end users privacy. The most effective policy is one managed by the monitors that allows them to "ban for life" any cheater. While harsh, it is effective especially when based on IP address and not "names".
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
they really need to develop AI to analyse players from the server end .
Software capable of detecting cheating from no more than player performance analysis, while preventing false positives and taking into account different players using the same connection, isn't artificial intelligence. It's actual omniscience. You might as well ask them to code a deity.

FuT is a Gacha game, and I think this type of "game" who only exist to screw ppl in wasting all their money should be banned, simple... at least in the EU
What do you have against freedom? If someone wants to offer a game, and someone else wishes to play it, what business of yours what the two of them engage in? Do you wish to crawl into people's beds as well, to monitor and regulate exactly what sex acts they perform, and how often?
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,297   +950
Software capable of detecting cheating from no more than player performance analysis, while preventing false positives and taking into account different players using the same connection, isn't artificial intelligence. It's actual omniscience. You might as well ask them to code a deity.

What do you have against freedom? If someone wants to offer a game, and someone else wishes to play it, what business of yours what the two of them engage in? Do you wish to crawl into people's beds as well, to monitor and regulate exactly what sex acts they perform, and how often?
With Fifa - I know nothing about the cheats - but some games ( seeing through walls etc must be easier ) - I get some players are good - but if humans can call cheating AI can as well - yes I know some losers call good players cheaters .
Definitely a root kit war is crazy - even if a game was 100% sandboxed - you still need input ( gamepad ) and output - so will allow input cheats , overlaid cheats etc .
Personally private premium servers could be away to go - so developer can make more money renting premium server space - admin renters take care of cheaters - with boots and invites .
Doesn't affect me -I don't want root kit cheatcode or rootkit games on my PC .
Another idea is game runs in special VM - so rootkicks don't matter if well sandboxed
 

Nobina

Posts: 3,954   +4,536
Some people are willing to give up rights if it meant they got to have slightly better experience in a video game.
 

3ogdy

Posts: 76   +61
Thank God somebody is doing something about it. CoD Online developers took so much before they finally implemented something to deal with all those cheaters that made the game unplayable.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,517   +2,259
PC has most cheats. People abuse it often to get advantage in a popular FUT mode.
For that one reason I support their attempts to prevent cheats.
FUT is fun, cheaters aint.
I can't imagine being so hard up on endorphins that I would pay someone to rootkit my PC just to eke out a few more.
 

Kam7r

Posts: 124   +247
Software capable of detecting cheating from no more than player performance analysis, while preventing false positives and taking into account different players using the same connection, isn't artificial intelligence. It's actual omniscience. You might as well ask them to code a deity.

What do you have against freedom? If someone wants to offer a game, and someone else wishes to play it, what business of yours what the two of them engage in? Do you wish to crawl into people's beds as well, to monitor and regulate exactly what sex acts they perform, and how often?

this have nothing to do with "freedom" it's the intentions, Gacha games are specifically made to f*ck you, you should inform yourself about its mechanics, it's the same as using cocaine, alcool or any drugs... Or does "freedom" allow me to take meth or kill people without consequences? in a human society absolute freedom does not exist, there are rules to protect the greatest number... stop living in your "America f*ck yea! " fairytale...
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
Gacha games are specifically made to f*ck you, you should inform yourself about its mechanics, it's the same as using cocaine, alcool or any drugs... Or does "freedom" allow me to take meth or kill people without consequences?
You're comparing a monetized videogame to a crazed drug addict on a murdering spree? And you want me to take you seriously?
 

Kam7r

Posts: 124   +247
You're comparing a monetized videogame to a crazed drug addict on a murdering spree? And you want me to take you seriously?
You're comparing a monetized videogame to me, "wishing to crawl into people's beds as well, to monitor and regulate exactly what sex acts they perform"... how is this different ?

this is common sense, even in business the number one rule should be "don't be an 4sshole" and it should be enforced, period
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,838   +1,909
You're comparing a monetized videogame to me, "wishing to crawl into people's beds as well, to monitor and regulate exactly what sex acts they perform"
No. I'm comparing your desire to remove a person's freedom of choice in recreational videogames to removing their freedom in recreational sex.

Now -- answer the question. How do you feel that a videogame loot box is equivalent to a crazed lunatic murdering others?
 

Kam7r

Posts: 124   +247
No. I'm comparing your desire to remove a person's freedom of choice in recreational videogames to removing their freedom in recreational sex.

Now -- answer the question. How do you feel that a videogame loot box is equivalent to a crazed lunatic murdering others?
dude , you did exactly the same as I did and it's me who need to justify myself ? the hell ... I just hope your kids or someone close to you don't fall to those dirty tricks and destroy their life by playing one of those gacha games ... oh but at least he would have had his "freedom" in doing so...
 

Darth Shiv

Posts: 2,315   +849
So is the anti-cheat required for offline play??? If it can be uninstalled as a separate part, why is anti-cheat required for running a game that can be played solo?

I am asking the question here not assuming they have done this btw.