Warzone

Kernel?

Warzone Ricochet anti-cheat could replace one problem with another

What exactly is a kernel-level driver?

Activision

Activision has finally detailed Warzone’s new anti-cheat software, which the company is calling Ricochet. Since the game launched in 2020, the battle royale has been plagued by cheaters, and it has only gotten worse. That’s why it’s heartening to see Activision double down on the issue with the October 13, 2021 announcement. However, there’s a slight wrinkle in the solution that could leave users at risk, and it all comes down to the privileges Ricochet will have over PCs.

What is the new Warzone anti-cheat software?

Cheaters have plagued Warzone since it launched. Activision

Ricochet has been in the works for a while and consists of a “multi-faceted approach,” according to Activision. It’s gearing up to launch alongside the Vanguard integration towards the end of 2021, and seems to be the fix players have been wanting for over a year. It’ll be mandatory in Warzone at first and then be integrated into other game modes later.

The most prominent portion of the Ricochet anti-cheat software is that it operates with a kernel-level driver, which will tie to the user’s PC to detect programs used for cheating. This is a gamechanger because it serves as a workaround for users who simply create a new account when their old one is banned.

Warzone is a free-to-play game so even after a user’s account is banned, nothing is stopping them from making a new one. By working with the PC itself instead of the account, this anti-cheat software should prevent users from continuously cheating. This, in turn, impacts console players, as they’re less likely to run into cheaters while cross-play is enabled. Anecdotally, it’s easier to cheat on PC anyway, so they’re hitting the cheating community where it hurts the most.

Activision will also be working closely with platform holders (like Sony and Microsoft) to disallow the use of certain modded controllers, which are used to gain an unfair advantage, according to YouTuber JGOD.

Why is the Warzone anti-cheat software controversial?

Kernel-level drivers gain access to your PC at the highest permissions. Activision

The crux of this anti-cheat software is the kernel-level driver. To most players, the term “kernel” in this context is foreign. Kernel-level software gives the program the highest privileges to your computer, which, in the hands of a hacker could be devastating.

The issues that could arise run the gamut, from a hacker gathering your information to your PC being bricked if a bit of the code has a bug. Of course, the reason Ricochet will likely be so effective is precisely because of the kernel-level access, but this could backfire if placed in the wrong hands.

We’ve seen companies get hacked before, most notably CD Projekt RED, the team behind The Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077. In addition, EA was hacked in the summer of 2021, but the list goes on and on. Typically, hackers steal source code from companies, but with the implementation of Ricochet’s kernel-level access, we fear a perpetrator would gain access to much more than that. However, the Call of Duty publisher Activision is obviously well aware of such potential vulnerabilities, so the company will inevitably ensure the code is debugged and that it’s ultra-secure.

In fact, this overarching concern is likely why the reveal put such an emphasis on player security.

At this point, it’s unclear how things will play out. One nice thing about Ricochet is that the kernel-level driver only functions while Warzone is on. After the game is shut down, the driver deactivates closes as well. So it won’t be constantly monitoring the user’s activity. Though, how will this impact players who leave Warzone running in the background even if they’re away?

According to Activision, the kernel-level driver only examines data related to Warzone, but with the software having the highest permissions, how hard would it be for someone to look at other data? Aside from malicious intents, a mistake in the software’s code could also corrupt your PC, which is equally as terrifying.

There’s a lot of good that could come from Ricochet, and if all goes well, Warzone players will run into significantly fewer cheaters. Still, we hope there’s a system in place to prevent hackers from using the software maliciously. Given the kernel-level’s high degree of access, it seems like a risky solution that could jeopardize users. Only time will tell

The Ricochet Warzone anti-cheat software will go live sometime in 2021.

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