A new machine learning based FPS cheating tool is starting to circulate in the seedy, dark underbelly of the internet. The new tool is functionally undetectable and works on any gaming system that can use a capture card, including consoles. The new unbannable cheat might be the most ferocious foe ever presented in the ongoing war between developers and hackers.
Rumors of the new tool's release spread widely earlier this month, prompting Activision to throw their legal team at the problem. They had the Cheat's Discord, videos of the cheat, and advertisements for the cheat taken down across the internet.
Activision and other game developers are quaking in their boots at the new hack, and for good reason. The new hack threatens to make an entire generation of advanced anti-cheat obsolete, and redefine the entire struggle between developers and hackers. The implications of this hack are worse than perhaps any cheat that has ever seen the light of day.
This could legitimately be the end of FPS titles as we know them today.
Why the new machine learning hack is the worst one yet
There are many hacks out there, and more are created every day in the burgeoning market of FPS online cheats. Activision and other companies already can't keep up with the cheating, so how can one new hack really matter?
What makes the new machine learning cheat tool more dangerous than all the others is how it works. It functionally circumnavigated every defense developers have traditionally had against anti-cheat, and in the process, if it were to become widespread, would shatter the integrity of basically every First-person shooter in the world.
The tool uses a machine-learning algorithm with image recognition on another machine. Players using the new cheating system plug their GPU into a capture card on another machine, which runs the hack and then sends the inputs through your host machine running the game. The hack also cleverly smooths out those inputs, to help avoid any automated detection.
Since the hack actually runs on a totally different machine than the one that is using the game, it is virtually undetectable programmatically speaking. The fact that it runs on another machine also enables it to be used on console gaming, a place where it has long been more difficult to hack on a widespread basis.
Perhaps the most horrifying part of the new hack is that its tools are designed to make hacking fun. The few videos that exist of the hack being used showed a variety of ways of customizing the hack experience.
Rather than just being a straight aim assist, the tool gives you a variety of sliders, letting you do anything from change the size of the hitbox of your enemies, to full-on snapping to their heads. With that leeway, players can choose to make the game into easy mode, while keeping it enough of a challenge that they feel like they are still playing a game.
So to recap: The new hack can't be detected with anything but the most advanced machine learning techniques, it works on any machine, and it's fun for the hackers to use so they will never get bored with it.
I am concerned.
A brave new world of hacking
Hacking was already bad. Based on our data analysis of Reddit forums over the past week, nearly 50% of top posts from the were about hacking or glitching of some kind. Tons of people are quitting games like Warzone, Apex, PUBG, TF2, and more due to the rampant hacking.
It's only going to get worse from here.
The current hacks, with the right anti-cheat engine, are detectable and bannable if the developers build the right tools. While they aren't perfect, Riot in the status quo is doing a decent job of keeping at least some hacking at bay in VALORANT. It's unclear how developers could even go about detecting and banning this new hack. Sure, they could ban using capture cards, but if they did that then they would basically have to also ban people from streaming their game.
In his breakdown of the hack, YouTuber Basically Homeless suggested that the only way to counter this machine learning hack would be for developers to develop their own machine learning anti-cheat to counter it. But he argued it seems unlikely that companies will devote the enormous amount of resources that would require. He is probably right, given Activision, EA, and Riot's current track record on addressing hacking, and that is with just dealing with standard hacks that are detectable on someone's PC.
Even with Activision shutting down the distribution of this hack earlier this month, the hack is still spreading, slowly but surely, like a virus in the cheating community. It's only a matter of time before this hack is widely used on PC and consoles.
So while players can complain that the devs aren't doing enough now, those short-term demands aren't even taking into account the massive firestorm that is coming for FPS games when this hack becomes widespread. Do you think hacker versus hacker is bad now? Just wait until the hackers are everywhere, on every game and every console.
Given the current state of FPS, I am not confident that the developers are going to do anything to stop this beyond doing optics-focused ban waves and looking the other way. When enough players become hackers, legitimate players will leave, and with a hack this potentially prolific, we may have no place to go.
I am not being overdramatic when see say, we might be in the final days of the online competitive FPS genre as we know it today.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.