Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds anti-cheating crackdown leads to arrests

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Not too long ago, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds was a scruffy little also-ran in Early Access, barely evolved past its Day Z mod roots. Now, it’s multi-billion dollar business worldwide, especially in growing eastern markets. Big money protects itself, for better or worse, and a recent crackdown on the creators of popular cheat tools for Plunkbat has resulted in the arrest of 15 individuals in China, according to this developer update on Steam, along with reaffirmations that the anti-cheat software in-game would be improved.

According to Chinese authorities, and translated by the PUBG team, here’s what the crackdown has resulted in so far:

“15 major suspects including “OMG”, “FL”, “火狐”, “须弥” and “炎黄” were arrested for developing hack programs, hosting marketplaces for hack programs, and brokering transactions. Currently the suspects have been fined approximately 30mil RNB ($5.1mil USD). Other suspects related to this case are still being investigated.

Some hack programs that are being distributed through the internet includes a Heybox(小黑盒) Trojan horse*(Chinese backdoor) virus. It was proven that hack developers used this virus to control users’ PC, scan their data, and extract information illegally.”

That’s a hell of a fine, although it makes me wonder just how much the creators of these cheating tools had raked in already. The market for Counter-Strike cheats is still lucrative to this day, even though it frequently results in a bizarre rolling game of whack-a-mole, as cheaters just buy fresh copies of the game time and time again after getting banned. You’d think that just playing the game enough to get better at it would be easier and less expensive, but apparently not.

The game has had a problem with cheaters for some time now. I’ve even been killed by them a few times myself – at least, that’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with for someone on the other side of a very solid, very opaque hill killing me with a single bullet from an SMG. As draconian as raids, arrests and multi-million-dollar fines may be, I hope it results in some good in the end.

There’s also confirmation – at least from the Chinese police, so take with a pinch of salt – that cheats for the game were being used to distribute trojans/backdoors and potentially steal information. Not exactly the greatest of news if you’ve been buying your accuracy advantages online. Hopefully this’ll lead to a few cheaters reconsidering, but knowing the kind of people who insist on cheating in online games, I doubt it. As for the rest of you, you’re going to behave, right? Good.

32 Comments

  1. vahnn says:

    Take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  2. Amake says:

    For this to be profitable enough for dozens of people to risk prison time, how many millions of people you figure are, seriously, paying money for some sketchy-ass software to let them cheat in a game on the Internet where you win points? Where would you even start unpacking all the things their parents have failed to teach them – that you should be careful about what stuff you’re putting in your computer, that you shouldn’t cheat, that you shouldn’t build your self-esteem on winning at games, that you shouldn’t build your self-esteem on winning at games when you cheat, that you shouldn’t build your self-esteem on winning at games when you’re paying some rando to cheat for you?

    • KidWithKnife says:

      My guess is that it’s not actually millions of people buying cheats, it’s probably thousands buying new cheat software as old cheats are rendered useless by game updates. It would stand to reason given how much money whales spend on microtransactions in games that super lame whales would probably do likewise with cheats.

      Either that or there really are literally millions of people buying cheat software. That seems kind of farfetched to me, but I guess stranger things have happened.

      • Tikigod says:

        I can easily see such software being used in the millions, especially if they’re not single program specific but rather have different profile behaviours that can be adjusted to suit the specific game.

        You only have to look at the sheer volume of people who take up arms and rage at developers on discussion boards if they take redundancy measures when developing their single player games to combat things as simple as memory address editing through something like Cheat Engine…. when it comes to multiplayer, competitiveness and having to feel like you’re ‘better’ even if it’s through artificial tool usage, there’s going to be a metric crapton of customers across all the various titles out there.

        • robotslave says:

          …not single program specific but rather have different profile behaviours that can be adjusted to suit the specific game

          That sure would be sweet for cheaters, but this simply doesn’t exist.

          One cheat patch for one online game has a lifetime of somewhere between hours and weeks, assuming it’s not a scam to begin with. The cheater who wants to keep cheating has to invest continually for every game he or she wants to cheat in.

          The very concept of a multi-game cheat (with free updates!) is risible.

          • Lord Byte says:

            Actually that is exactly how it is, just google a few. It’s usually a package with a monthly subscription, that includes a ton of games, with status-updates when which game is patched and when it’s safe to use it again.

      • rickenbacker says:

        “Super lame whales” sounds like a faction in an awesome RTS.

      • sion12 says:

        there is actually millions of hacker. in fact over 1 millions has been banned in one month

        • poliovaccine says:

          I’m assuming that means there are millions of *IP addresses*… as in, hundreds or maybe thousands of hackers who just keep changing their shit up.

    • Beefenstein says:

      “Where would you even start unpacking all the things their parents have failed to teach them…”

      Teaching and learning are separate processes.

    • spacejunkk says:

      It’s probably something to do with trading item drops for real cash. Some items are worth a fortune, and you earn them much faster (maybe 30x faster) if you play well. So there’s a financial incentive.

      • grimdanfango says:

        So presumably none of this would even be possible if the devs hadn’t created a tradeable item economy, and just let the game be a level playing-field.

        “We’re the only ones with the right to manipulate our customer base for cash”

        I feel like I have limited sympathy for all involved really.

      • theirongiant says:

        There’s a limit on how many crates you can get each week and all the good shit is hidden behind pay to open crates, paying for crates to make a profit is a losing proposition.

  3. Chrithu says:

    Oh there is an interesting talk on youtube from a whitehat meeting. Forget the title but basically the speaker was the programmer of the first long running and whitespread bot for WoW. And he said he made 6 figures yearly from selling the bot by the time Blizzard sued him.

    That is what sickens me so much about it. A lot of cheaters if you talk to them have that romantisized picture of a lonely hacker sticking it to the man by being smarter than them. But that is far from the truth. Writing good hacks is a serious and highly competitive business today and it is just about getting money (involving using credit card info and trojans on your own customers).

    Beyond making you just an asshole, using hacks is just a supremely risky and stupid thing to do.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      $100-200k is what a programmer makes in Silicon Valley. More if you’re a consultant. Six figures really isn’t getting rich.

      • Chrithu says:

        Today yes. Mind you though we are talking the early 2000’s here as far as the WoW bot goes. And no Silicon Valley programmer would waste his time with such stuff. The knowledeg about how to do hacks though is freely available and knowledgeable people in china or russia getting paid in US$ can have a mighty fine live from earning six figures a year for comparatively little work in count of hours.

      • Cederic says:

        Six figures working from your spare room somewhere with living costs a tenth of SV however is a darn fine wage.

    • Titler says:

      That sounds a lot like Markee Dragon?

      Anyone wondering what he’s up too today should know that he not only continues to run his Real Money business in MMOs, but is the Official Trusted Trader for Portalarium now, and has helped set the price of the premium currency in the deceptive kickstarter, delayed then failed launch product Shroud of the Avatar. Because apparently “RMT will always occur, so we’ve taken it in-house” is what backers of the “spiritual successor” to Ultima really wanted…

      Unsurprisingly, someone who started his career breaking the rules and cheating in an MMO, and only left the “grey” (his words) market because the Blizzard lawyers turned up continues to have no ethical qualms about misdirecting other people’s money into his own pockets.

  4. Viceus says:

    the arrest of 15 individuals in China,

    Keep doing that.
    In My Opinion, People believe that pro PUBG player china at leaderboard majority is cheater anyway. Headshot rate below 80%.
    Seriously This is a good game just little touch of cheat and become the worse game ever.

    • freeviruzdotorg says:

      As far as i can see, it would be nice if they updated there TOS to allow them to sue if a cheater is caught kind of like in fortnite, THE ONLY REASON they were arrested was because of the root access they gained through an external program they provided which allowed them to steal information via a keylogger and any other programs it has provided

  5. TheAntsAreBack says:

    I know of hardly any PC shooters that are not ruined by hackers and cheats I’m afraid and that’s the reason I just don’t buy them anymore. If devs want my money they have a huge amount to do before confidence in the genre is restored.

  6. Rane2k says:

    There´s a few things that are kind of buried between the lines in the original post:

    The arrest was probably not for creating cheat tools, but rather for distribution of malware.

    There is no link to the chinese police thing, so this could just be made up.

    The important message is “Guys, don´t download hacks, they might be infested with malware”, not “Guys, don´t download hacks, you might be arrested”. I think this could and should be communicated better.
    (Well, “Guys, don´t hack, it´s dishonourable” never worked anyway :-/)

    • Premium User Badge

      alison says:

      I don’t know much about Plunkbat/绝地求生 besides what is reported on RPS and the China-focused media I follow, but I think this article is a decent summary: link to weibo.com My Chinese isn’t great, but I think this is an ongoing investigation that just hit the news again because two more suspects got taken in: link to ithome.com

      • Rane2k says:

        Thanks for those links. Google translate produces mostly gibberish, but it seems like I was wrong.

        I first thought that, if the news was true (which it is), that the main legal push against the hack developers was for distribution of malware. But the articles do indeed suggest that the police was looking for the creators of the hacking tools.

        What an interesting world we live in. If you replace a few words in these articles it sounds a lot like a crackdown on drug traffickers.

    • poliovaccine says:

      If it’s about malware, suddenly I can understand it being worth enough money for the police to pay attention.

    • Devan says:

      This exactly. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that the law should not be used to enforce the rules of video games, nor any other arbitrary business objectives that come at the expense of consumer liberties. Cheating and griefing are certainly problems to be dealt with, but in my view it is an abuse of the legal system to use it in that way.
      As for distributing malware to unsuspecting users and grabbing private data from their machines, that’s a whole different story and I’m glad these guys have been taken down and are facing severe punishment.

  7. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    I hope that all this cheatin’ and hackin’ and arrestin’ and loot crate exploitin’ will signal the beginnin’ of the end of borin’ multiplayer shootin’ games and developers puttin’ all their efforts into craftin’ decent single-player gamin’ again.

  8. allison says:

    cheaters just buy fresh copies of the game time and time again after getting banned

    This seems bizarre to me. Is this like F2P whales blowing cash on a game because they enjoy it? Or are they making their money back in some way while playing Counter-Strike?

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      The motive in PUBG and CS has been the same: you can eke out a trickle of cash from the games by cheating. In PUBG it’s relatively simple- if you win all your games, you get lots of crates which means more money on the steam marketplace. In CSGO when I was still following it, the cheating market was largely because of gambling/betting sites, and by people who would sell their “services” as a cheater to group with and rank up people who were not as good but wanted a golden icon by their name. Haven’t bothered with CSGO in a long time, so I’m not sure if anything has changed there in years though.

      • doodler says:

        You don’t even have to win, if you do solo in squad mode and make it to the top 10 you’ll make between 4-500 points. Don’t even have to expose your cheating by killing anyone. Watch some replays if you get that far and you’ll see a lot of quick heals and hyper-awareness just so they can stay alive longer without necessarily getting reported.

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