Scientists launch counteroffensive against video game cheaters

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The researchers developed their approach for detecting cheaters using the favored first-person shooter game Counter-Strike. But the mechanism can work for any massively multiplayer online (MMO) game that sends data traffic to a central server.

Their research was published online Aug. 3 in IEEE Transactions on Dependable and Secure Computing.

Counter-Strike may be a series of games during which players add teams to counter terrorists by securing plant locations, defusing bombs and rescuing hostages. Players can earn in-game currency to shop for more powerful weapons, which may be a key to success. Various software cheats for the sport are available online.

“Sometimes when you’re playing against players who use cheats you’ll tell, but sometimes it’s going to not be evident,” said Md Shihabul Islam, a UT Dallas computing doctoral student within the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and computing and lead author of the study, who plays Counter-Strike for fun. “It’s not fair to the opposite players.”

In addition to fair play, cheating can also have an economic impact when dissatisfied players leave to play other games, Islam said.

Cheating incidents can also have serious consequences in esports, a fast-growing industry with annual revenues on the brink of $1 billion. Cheating may result in sanctions against teams and players, including disqualification, forfeiture of prize and a ban on future participation, consistent with the Esports Integrity Commission based within the uk .

Detecting cheating in MMO games are often challenging because the info that goes from a player’s computer to the sport server is encrypted. Previous research has relied on decrypted game logs to detect cheating after the very fact . The UT Dallas researchers’ approach eliminates the necessity for decrypted data and instead analyzes encrypted data traffic to and from the server in real time.

“Players who cheat send traffic during a different way,” said Dr. Latifur Khan, an author of the study, professor of computing and director of the large Data Analytics and Management Lab at UT Dallas. “We’re trying to capture those characteristics.”

For the study, 20 students within the UT Dallas class Cyber Security Essentials for Practitioners downloaded Counter-Strike and three software cheats: an aimbot, which automatically targets an opponent; a speed hack, which allows the player to maneuver faster; and a wallhack, which makes walls transparent so players can easily see their opponent. The researchers found out a server dedicated to the project therefore the students’ activity wouldn’t disrupt other online players.

The researchers analyzed game traffic to and from the dedicated server. Data travels in packets, or bundles, of data . The packets are often different sizes, counting on the contents. Researchers analyzed features, including the amount of incoming and outgoing packets, their size, the time they were transmitted, their direction and therefore the number of packets during a burst, which may be a group of consecutive packets.

By monitoring the info traffic from the scholar players, researchers identified patterns that indicated cheating. They then used that information to coach a machine-learning model, a sort of AI , to predict cheating supported patterns and features within the game data.

The researchers adjusted their statistical model, supported alittle set of gamers, to figure for larger populations. a part of the cheat-detection mechanism involves sending the info traffic to a graphics processing unit, which may be a parallel server, to form the method faster and take the workload off the most server’s central processing unit.

The researchers decide to extend their work to form an approach for games that don’t use a client-server architecture and to make the detection mechanism safer . Islam said gaming companies could use the UT Dallas technique with their own data to coach gaming software to detect cheating. If cheating is detected, the system could take immediate action.

“After detection,” Khan said, “we can provides a warning and gracefully kick the player out if they continue with the cheating during a hard and fast interval .

“Our aim is to make sure that games like Counter-Strike remain fun and fair for all players.”

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Materials provided by University of Texas at Dallas. Original written by Kim Horner.