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Don't worry, Valve isn't looking at your porn history

11:00 PM on 02.17.2014 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
  @CTZ

Gabe Newell address Valve's Anti-Cheat system

Valve and the PC gaming savior Gabe Newell took to reddit to address the Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) system. Specifically, the CEO reassured Steam users that they are not accessing your browsing history. The company usually doesn't talk about VAC, but this thread on the Counter-Strike reddit was enough to get Gabe himself to address the matter.

"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," Gabe stated. "These cheats phone home to a DRM server that confirms that a cheater has actually paid to use the cheat.

"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."

Gabe noted that creating Kernel-level cheats are expensive, and they're expensive to detect too. What VAC does is make cheating even more expensive for cheaters "than the economic benefits they can reasonably expect to gain."

"There is also a social engineering side to cheating, which is to attack people's trust in the system. If "Valve is evil - look they are tracking all of the websites you visit" is an idea that gets traction, then that is to the benefit of cheaters and cheat creators. VAC is inherently a scary looking piece of software, because it is trying to be obscure, it is going after code that is trying to attack it, and it is sneaky. For most cheat developers, social engineering might be a cheaper way to attack the system than continuing the code arms race, which means that there will be more Reddit posts trying to cast VAC in a sinister light.

"Our response is to make it clear what we were actually doing and why with enough transparency that people can make their own judgements as to whether or not we are trustworthy."

Gabe summed up his statement by saying Valve doesn't see browsing history, and jokingly noted that they do not care about the porn sites you visit. "Oh, dear god, no. My brain just melted," Gabe noted at the thought of the idea.

Valve, VAC, and trust [reddit]






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