The controversy over Riot’s Vanguard anti-cheat software, explained

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Much of the conversation about Riot’s new shooter Valorant has been about the anti-cheat software that comes with it, called Vanguard. The name is fitting, because Vanguard doesn’t just look for cheats when Valorant is running – it starts up with Windows and watches for other processes, whether or not you’re playing Valorant at the time.

Vanguard is unusually intrusive to anti-cheat software, although contrary to some of the more imaginative theories you can read online, the reason for that is not some Pinky and Brain-esque plan to blow up everyone’s PC and take over the world. . Vanguard detects software with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cheat writers and blocks some of them. For those who don’t use any of those programs, installing Vanguard won’t do much good, although it will run all the time unless you disable it, and for some, that’s just awkward.

Here’s a breakdown of the controversy and what you need to know about Vanguard before installing it.

Vanguard is Riot’s newest anti-cheat software, and right now it’s being used to help protect Valorant from wallhackers and aimbotters. Once installed, Vanguard will run at Windows startup unless uninstalled.

It has two parts:

  1. A kernel-mode driver that runs when your PC starts
  2. A client checking to make sure he is not performing any tricks while playing Valorant

Basically, the kernel-mode driver is the client’s bodyguard. (Vanguard blocks fewer programs starting with an update in May, and may prevent Valorant from running in the future rather than blocking the offending software.)

If the Vanguard driver does not start with Windows, Valorant will not trust your PC and you will not be able to play games. This is why you must reboot after installing Vanguard.

If we were in a ’90s hacker movie, the core would be the code green virtual reality sphere where the final showdown takes place. It is the core of your operating system, where the most basic functions occur, such as allocating system memory to different programs. Software that runs at the kernel level has the highest level of control over your PC.

Riot’s answer is that:

  1. He has been careful and has offered a reward of $ 100,000 for the discovery of security vulnerabilities in his software.
  2. Cheat creators work at the kernel level, and if Riot can’t give your software the same level of privileges as cheats, you will be at a disadvantage.
  3. Other anti-cheat software also uses kernel-mode drivers.

Regarding that last point, it’s actually common for anti-cheat software to use kernel-mode drivers. EasyAntiCheat does, and is used by many games, including Apex Legends. BattleEye does too, and is used by high-profile games like Rainbow Six Siege and PUBG. Like Vanguard, these anti-cheat programs block other kernel drivers that contain security vulnerabilities.

The reason this is controversial now is probably that, A) Valorant is a new high-profile game and Riot intentionally drew a lot of attention to its anti-cheat efforts, B) Vanguard starts with Windows instead of the game, and C ) Vanguard does not appear to be as forgiving as other anti-cheat software, possibly blocking a wider range of programs.

When it was first introduced, Vanguard blocked certain drivers and multiple programs can use the same drivers, preventing certain temperature monitors, fan drivers, and overclocking tools from running.

For example

For example, Vanguard wouldn’t let me run a program called Core Temp, which reads and displays the temperature of each CPU core. Why? Riot would only speak in generalities. “Vanguard blocks drivers with known security vulnerabilities (usually privilege escalation via arbitrary memory writes) that allow cheat developers to load their cheats into the kernel without Microsoft’s approval,” wrote Paul Chamberlain, anti-leader. Valorant trap, in a Reddit post.

That policy has changed. Vanguard still blocks “a small number” of drivers, but it no longer blocks most of the software it used to make, including Core Temp. From now on, Riot says it will “prefer non-invasive solutions.” If you can’t run a show with Vanguard the way you like it, it will prevent you from playing Valorant instead of preventing the program from running.

Can Vanguard really overheat PCs?

Not quite. There is no feature or bug in Vanguard that increases CPU or GPU temperatures. When gamers report overheating issues, like in this Reddit post, it’s because Vanguard automatically blocked the software they were using to control processor speeds or cooling settings.

In all likelihood, you don’t have to worry about this, because Vanguard now blocks fewer programs, and because most people don’t have PCs that overheat drastically unless they are running temperature monitoring / fan control software or subclocking their GPU. If you have a weak cooling situation and rely on Windows software to prevent your PC from melting, check and make sure that Vanguard didn’t crash that software the first time you reboot after installing it.

According to a representative from FaceIt, another anti-cheat solution that blocks the same driver, Interception “is used by cheats to generate false inputs, which is also the reason why other [anti-cheat programs] block it.”

Valorant

We’ll know better how well Riot’s anti-cheat suite is performing after we have a longer period of time to judge Valorant. That, of course, will irritate PC gamers, who are particularly sensitive to any loss of control over their machines. I don’t like when something is preventing me from doing what I want to do with my PC, whether there is a possible driver vulnerability or not

The top recommendation from players was that Vanguard should allow players to run the software they are concerned about, but prevent them from playing Valorant unless they reboot and make sure those programs don’t run. That’s the direction Riot has said it’s going. Riot is clearly listening, although it hasn’t shown any interest in changing the basic workings of its anti-cheat software.

For now, it’s something players will have to put up with if they want to play Valorant, although Riot at least made disabling or uninstalling Vanguard easier by adding an icon to the systray. I have started uninstalling Vanguard between Valorant sessions. I’d say it takes me as long to reinstall vanguard reddit, reboot, and launch Valorant as it does to launch Rainbow Six Siege and access the menu. However, that may say more about Siege.