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Riot Vanguard: VALORANT’s New Anti-Cheat System

Among the many “game breakers” that the VALORANT development team sought to resolve with their new feature title, hacking and cheating was something at the top of the list. In response to exploiters that seem to be most prevalent in first-person shoot games, VALORANT released a brand new anti-cheat system known as Riot Vanguard.

Riot has continued to champion their goals of creating “the best competitive experience possible.”

What is Riot Vanguard?

Riot Vanguard is the new anti-cheat system introduced with the release of VALORANT’s closed beta access. Vanguard is a “custom game security software” that runs while the VALORANT game is active and also uses a kernel mode driver.

Both the client software and the kernel driver have been developed by Riot Games.

Riot Vanguard Architecture

According to Riot Games, the following is how their development team describes the Riot Vanguard architecture, that primarily consists of the client, driver, and platform.

  • Client
    • The client (user-mode) handles all of the anti-cheat detections while a game is running.
    • The client needs to communicate with the platform to receive detections and in order for a player to be able to play.
    • The client does not consider a machine trusted unless it recognizes the driver; untrusted machines cannot play VALORANT.
  • Driver
    • The driver (kernel-mode) is used by the client to validate memory and system state, and to make sure the client has not been tampered with.
    • The driver runs at start-up to prevent loading cheats prior to the client initialization. 
    • The driver can be uninstalled at any time (“Riot Vanguard” in Add/Remove Programs), although VALORANT won’t run without it.
    • The driver does not collect or send any information about your computer back to us.
    • The driver has been signed by Riot’s own EV cert, which has in turn been signed by Microsoft as per their code signing process.

What is a Kernel Mode Driver and what does it mean for me?

No doubt, one of the more controversial aspects of the anti-cheat software is that there is a kernel component. If you are unfamiliar with the kernel, it’s essentially the core computer program at the center of your operating system — yes, your operating system.

Kernel_Drivers_Image.png

When you install VALORANT, the game will ask you to reboot your computer before you can play the game. Vanguard is precisely the reason a reboot is required. You will be installing Riot’s anti-cheat software one of the most privileged areas of your computer.

Many have voiced concerns about privacy, surveillance, and security of Riot’s injection of computer code at users’ operating system.

Riot describes the problem between the battle of cheaters and anti-cheat software. “The problem here arises from the fact that code executing in kernel-mode can hook the very system calls we would rely on to retrieve our data, modifying the results to appear legitimate in a way we might have difficulty detecting.

Essentially, cheaters are using operating system (and even hardware-level) exploits. These can spoof the very system processes that client-level anti-cheat software, thus making it impossible for client-level anti-cheat software to detect hacking.

Can I trust Riot Vanguard?

The security team at Riot Games interestingly defends their position with this two-part argument.

  1. Riot already had the capability with their user-mode anti-cheat software. Vanguard doesn’t add any additional access to private information that would not have otherwise been accessible by Riot. In short, if you have trusted Riot so far, then Vanguard should create no additional concern.
  2. Many others in the industry are using similar anti-cheat systems that operate at the kernel layer. They included popular anti-cheat software such as EasyAntiCheat (Fortnite), BattleEye (PUBG), and Xigncode3 (TERA).

Ultimately, the decision is in your hands on how comfortable you are with a game developer to run software at the kernel-level. By definition, you are exposing an area of your operating system that has higher privileges by design. While there have been cases of anti-cheat software taking advantage of client resources, Riot has been a champion of software security and holding themselves to their strict standards of data protection and privacy

How do I Uninstall Riot Vanguard?

By uninstalling VALORANT, you will NOT automatically uninstall Riot Vanguard.

To uninstall Riot Vanguard, you would follow the same steps as you would to uninstall any other software on your computer.

How to Uninstall Riot Vanguard (Windows 10)

  1. Access your start menu by pressing the Windows button.
  2. Search “Add and Remove Programs” and follow the link to your control panel
  3. You should see a full list of your Apps & Features listed.
  4. Find “Riot Vanguard” and click the icon.
  5. You should then have the option to uninstall the software. Continue following the windows prompts until the software is uninstalled from your computer.
  6. A reboot might be required.

You can see the full step-by-step guide to uninstall the Riot Vanguard software in the link here.

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8 Comments

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