×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Valorant's invasive anti-cheat software is causing an uproar

Riot Games' Valorant hasn't even been officially released, but it's already raising some concerns regarding customer privacy. It has been discovered that Valorant's anti-cheat software, Riot Vanguard, is always active on user computers, even when they aren't playing the game. Riot Vanguard is automatically installed on user computers when Valorant is installed, which naturally hasn't been a very popular decision among gamers.

Voidox, one of the Reddit users who originally discovered the anti-cheat software, wrote that it "always has the same rights as administrator from the moment you boot [your computer]."

As explained by Voidox, the fear here is that this could give Riot Games unlimited access to monitoring the rest of your data. "You have a piece of software that can't be turned off, that runs with elevated privileges non-stop on your system," wrote Voidox.

This immediately upset gamers who feared that Riot Vanguard was potentially constantly monitoring their computers. Even if you're not getting up to anything illegal, it's not exactly comforting to feel like someone is watching your every click without your prior knowledge. To Riot Games' credit, the developer didn't wait terribly long before weighing in on the controversy. Posting under the user name RiotArkem, a lead member of Riot's anti-cheat team took to Reddit in an attempt to reassure fans. According to Riot, the software isn't out to steal any of your personal info.

As explained by RiotArkem, the reason this software runs automatically at boot is to catch cheaters who have found workarounds in other security systems.

"Vanguard doesn't consider the computer trusted unless the Vanguard driver is loaded at system startup (this part is less common for anti-cheat systems)," wrote RiotArkem. "This is good for stopping cheaters because a common way to bypass anti-cheat systems is to load cheats before the anti-cheat system starts ... Running the driver at system startup time makes this significantly more difficult."

RiotArkem added: "We've tried to be very careful with the security of the driver. We've had multiple external security research teams review it for flaws (we don't want to accidentally decrease the security of the computer like other anti-cheat drivers have done in the past) ... The Vanguard driver does not collect or send any information about your computer back to us. Any cheat detection scans will be run by the non-driver component only when the game is running."

In other words, yes. The anti-cheat software does start running as soon as you boot up your computer. However, according to Riot, Vanguard doesn't start actively scanning for cheats and other suspicious software unless Valorant is actually running.

Still, there are quite a few Redditors who are reluctant to simply take Riot at its word. Even for those who accept that the company is on the up and up and isn't collecting personal data, there's still a fear that Vanguard could be used in the future for nefarious purposes. If someone else co-opted Vanguard for a different use than its designers intended, then that could spell serious trouble for the personal data of Valorant players.

As Voidox pointed out in their original post, "Let's say the anti-cheat gets compromised tomorrow, you won't know that your computer is exposed and it won't update until you start the game."

One can't help but feel reminded of the similar controversy surrounding Blizzard's Warden software. Blizzard introduced Warden in the early 2000s as a way of combating cheaters who were ruining the fun for folks in World of Warcraft. However, it quickly came under some scrutiny when security expert Bruce Schneier determined that the software was watching everything he was doing on his computer, including accessing his email. Despite this concern, Blizzard continued to use Warden going forward.

Needless to say, people like their privacy. Regardless of the intention behind a program, folks don't tend to take too kindly to even the possibility of someone poking about in their personal accounts.

In a rather frustrating aside, RiotArkem also made it pretty clear that Riot Games isn't considering any alternatives here.

"[The] game will refuse to initialize if the Vanguard driver wasn't started at boot. So you can remove Vanguard whenever you like but until it's reinstalled the game won't work," RiotArkem wrote.

In other words, you can either use this controversial software or you can forget about launching Valorant. This may be a deal breaker for some folks, even those who are excited for the game that some are calling a potential Overwatch killer. All players can seem to hope for at this point is that Riot will continue to be upfront regarding Vanguard's capabilities.