Often, we have heard that cheaters never prosper, but this saying did not take into account PC gaming cheats like aimbots and other sketchy tools. However, game developers and publishers cited the issue and have been constantly trying to resolve it by introducing anti-cheat mechanisms. The same mechanism has been introduced by Electronic Arts. This kernel-level solution is developed in-house and called the EA AntiCheat (EAAC), and it will be first introduced in FIFA 23.
What is kernel-level anti-cheat software?
The kernel-level anti-cheat software is software that runs at the kernel, i.e., the core of a computer’s operating system, during its startup. A player using an authorised process to give them an unfair advantage in the video game will be detected by this software by monitoring all the running applications. The tools used in it will disable insecure drivers that can be exploited by cheaters.
This software offers the highest level of access possible. It is a great disadvantage for the cheaters, but at the same time, it is also a privacy concern for players who do not feel safe enough to use it or intend to bypass it. However, theoretically, it is a logical approach to tackle PC gaming’s biggest issues.
EasyAntiCheat, PunkBuster, BattlEye, nProtect GameGuard, Xigncode3, and EQU8, as well as Riot’s Vanguard, Activision’s Ricochet, and Electronic Arts’ EA anti-cheat, are the most popular third-party software that is controversial kernel-level anti-cheat software. Other anti-cheat softwares that do not work at the kernel level include Valve’s VAC, Blizzard’s Warden, and 343 Industries’ Arbiter.
According to EA, in most cases, PC cheating utility developers target the kernel of a gaming system in order to introduce their unauthorised methods.
“So we need to have kernel-mode protections to ensure fair play” and to create an “even playing field.”
The Senior Director of Game Security and Anti-cheat at EA, Elise Murphy, says, “Third-party anti-cheat solutions are often opaque to our teams and prevent us from implementing additional privacy controls or customizations that provide greater accuracy and granularity for EA-specific game modes. “With EAAC, we have full stack ownership of the security and privacy posture, so we can fix security issues as soon as they may arise.”
EA points out that cheat programs, which run in the kernel space, fly under the radar of many current anti-cheat solutions. Taking advantage, the developers intend to hop into the same space to catch cheaters red-handed and more effectively root out hacking tools.
However, EA confirms that it is not going to apply this to games that are single-player or without competitive ladders or leaderboards. Such games developed by publishers will have some different schemes or none at all. But in games like FIFA 23, which offer multiplayer modes in addition to single player modes, EA anti-cheat will be required because sometimes single player modes are used by cheat developers to reverse engineer a game and experiment with tampered game files.
EA Talks Security in Regards to Its Kernel-Level Anti-Cheat Solutions
A potential security risk is created by granting a game such deep access to PC resources. Downplaying this concern in an FAQ on the subject, EA says that its anti-cheat team is “composed of some of the best security engineers in the world.”
“We’ve also worked with independent, third-party security and privacy accessors to validate that EAAC does not degrade the security posture of your PC and to ensure strict data privacy boundaries.”
Additionally, EA confirms that its anti-cheat team is performing daily tests and continuously running penetration tests internally. EA vows that they will “make sure that potential issues get addressed as quickly as possible.
- Game developers and publishers have acknowledged the problem and have been working hard to remedy it by including anti-cheat systems.
- The EA AntiCheat (EAAC) kernel-level solution was created in-house and will be implemented for the first time in FIFA 23.
- This software will detect a player who is exploiting an authorised process to gain an unfair edge in a video game by monitoring all running applications.
- This software provides the most extensive level of access available. It also poses a privacy risk for gamers who do not feel safe enough to use it or seek to circumvent it.
- With EAAC, we have full stack ownership of the security and privacy posture, allowing us to address security issues as they arise.