Call of Duty’s new anti-cheat system includes a kernel-level driver to catch PC cheaters

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Activision is finally cracking down on cheating in Call of Duty: Warzone. A new Ricochet anti-cheat system is arriving in both Call of Duty: Warzone and Call of Duty: Vanguard. The system will use a combination of a PC kernel-level driver, machine learning algorithms to examine player behavior, and a “team of dedicated professionals” working to investigate cheaters.

The PC kernel-level driver has been developed internally for the Call of Duty franchise by Activision, and will launch first for Call of Duty: Warzone with the upcoming Pacific update. PC games are increasingly using kernel-level drivers to detect sophisticated cheating, but since they run at such a high level in Windows, there are always privacy concerns surrounding such an approach.

The kernel-level driver will be part of the Pacific map update for Warzone.

The Ricochet anti-cheat system in Call of Duty will not always be on, according to Activision. That means the kernel-level driver only operates when you open up Call of Duty: Warzone, and the driver will shut down when you exit. The driver itself will monitor processes interacting with Warzone to see if they’re trying to inject code or manipulate the game, and report the results back.

Activision says it has tested the driver across a large range of PCs, and it will be required to play Call of Duty: Warzone when the Pacific map update launches later this year. The kernel-level driver will eventually arrive in Call of Duty: Vanguard “at a later date.”

Call of Duty players will welcome this new anti-cheat effort, even if there will be inevitable questions and concerns over a kernel-level driver. It comes just a day after the main Call of Duty Twitter account issued a stern warning to cheaters: “Cheaters aren’t welcome. There’s no tolerance for cheaters, and soon you’ll know what we mean.”

While Activision has been banning thousands of accounts, cheaters have still been ruining Call of Duty: Warzone for months. Prominent Warzone players have become highly vocal about the problem, forcing Raven Software to communicate more frequently about the cheating issues and promise a full anti-cheat system in August.

Call of Duty: Warzone isn’t the only PC game affected by cheaters, though. Cheating in some of the world’s top PC games has been getting worse over the past year, and aimbots and wallhacks are now common in the industry’s most competitive shooters. Aimbots automatically lock onto opponents, making it easy to hit head shots. Wallhacks expose everyone on a map, so cheaters get a huge advantage by knowing where their opponents are at all times.

The industry has been struggling to combat cheaters even with tools like Easy Anti-Cheat and BattlEye that also use kernel-level drivers. Valorant has had some success with its own custom kernel-level driver, but it’s still a big investment to have teams dedicated to fighting what are effectively hackers and malware authors. It’s a continuous cat and mouse game, as hackers regularly work around protections.

A more coordinated industry effort might be required to really tackle the issue. Microsoft is the Windows platform holder, but the company’s “TruePlay” anti-cheat system for Windows 10 never really materialized. It was limited to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) for apps, which most game developers have ignored, and it’s not clear if Microsoft will ever provide a full anti-cheat solution at the Windows kernel level to assist game developers.

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