How Malware is Used to Cheat in Online Games

Media Division | March 10, 2017

Over the past decade, the realm of online gaming has grown much larger than it once was.  Between multiple different consoles and computer systems, there are players from all over the world duking it out over cyberspace 24/7.  But one aspect of online gaming that has grown rapidly and continues to be an issue is cheaters. Interestingly enough, when in game cheats are reviewed, it can be discovered that they are essentially the exact same as malware.

Malware is typically associated with compromising and stealing from organizations or to take down websites for political or other reasons. But, the reality is that for gamers it can be a way to have the advantage over other players.  Cheats for online games are often simply software that alters the in-game environment in real time, just as malware does with networks and computer systems.  Online games basically function by connecting players to a server, and a mutual game environment is then generated, with the cheater being one of the players in the setting.

Common Methods Used By Online Gaming Cheaters

The cheater can employ various methods to gain the upper hand in the game.  One of the most common methods employed is (Dynamic Link Library) injection, which is essentially the action of injecting code into a running process.  The basic steps of DLL injection include attaching to the process, allocating memory within the process, transplanting the DLL or DLL Path into the memory, and then instructing it to execute the DLL.

A second common method employed is the use of bots.  Bots can be implemented to perform repetitive mechanical actions in games, such as farming for materials or complex tasks. The rewards can then be used in a game or sold via real markets.  Bots like these have been heavily present in MMORPG’s such as Runescape.  They are often much easier to detect because a bots pattern can typically be identified through behavior analysis.

Online gaming had gone through a considerably quick progression of events that led to cheating.  It originally started out with games allowing a person be able to sit down and play for fun.  Once the gaming industry grew and went online, it began to develop much higher stakes against other players in competitive environments.  Once reaching this state, it was realized that it could be used for profit, and then cheaters were off to the races.

The overall conflict between cheating and prevention is interesting in that it is progressing in a very similar way as the battle against malware.  There are cheaters, as well as anti-cheat developers working to defend against and eliminate them, which has been an arms race for several years.  Though, the tools and methods of anti-cheat developers are behind in comparison to anti-malware developments.  Behavioral analysis has begun to play a much larger role in defensive methods, and this can help to the take the gaming security realm into a much more proactive state.

Staying Aware of Cyber Attackers with Threat Intelligence Feeds

As we know, gaming is not the only realm in which cyber threats are of major concern.  All of the different types of technology that we use in our day to day world can be potential targets for cyber attacks.  Staying alert of the various threat patterns around the web can help an organization to defend from actors before they can launch attacks.  Massive Alliance offers threat intelligence feeds that can relay patterns and indicators to organizations, which allows them to immediately put security measures in place.

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