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The Fight Against Hacking ---- A Letter to Our Players

2019-10-29 00:05:02

For a while now we’ve been working to improve our Cheating Detection, and these efforts have really started to bear fruit. As a result, we wanted to give you all a deeper look into what we have been doing, as well as some future initiatives we’re working on to continue to make your gameplay more fair and free of hackers. The vast majority of your fellow players are honest and work hard to get their wins, and cheaters are frustrating and infuriating for all of us. We want you to know that we are 100% committed to providing a fair gameplay experience for everyone.


Myth:  Hackers who spend money don’t get banned

Truth: Money spent in PUBG MOBILE has no impact on punishment for cheating. There is a zero tolerance policy for cheating regardless of how much you spend. We have banned some of the highest spenders in PUBG MOBILE who have been caught cheating. Everyone is equal in this regard. 


Myth: VIP Hacks mean you’ll never get caught.

Truth: All hackers can be caught, regardless of what means they use to cheat. There are no foolproof ways to cheat. While the people who create cheating software would love for people to believe there is no risk, this is not true.


Myth: People from XXXX country are all cheaters.

Truth: There are cheaters from every country, but most players from every country are honest.


Myth: Tencent makes money off cheats

Truth: We hate cheaters as much if not more than you do and would never do anything to help cheaters. We take enormous pride in the game we work on every day, and cheaters cheapen all of our work. We’re doing everything possible to keep cheaters out of our game as much as possible, and hundreds of team members are dedicated to this task.


Myth: If Tencent would only do XXXXX, hacking would be greatly reduced!

Truth: Simple solutions have all been considered, but we have to always balance implementing a solution against the problems it may cause honest players. Everything has trade-offs, for example if we start with IP bans honest players on that network will get mistakenly banned as well after they get assigned an IP that a cheater used previously. Various hardware IDs can be spoofed, and are spoofed with real numbers that will impact honest players. It’s all theoretical until you get banned because of something a cheater did, and that’s something we work to avoid at all costs.


Myth: Bans are only handed out once a Day/Week/Month.

Truth: Bans happen constantly, in real time, as soon as we detect a cheater. This can be in the middle of a match, or after a review of data shows that someone was indeed cheating. We want to get rid of hackers as fast as possible, waiting isn’t an option!


So what are we doing to catch cheaters? Tencent has a fantastic Game Security Team that is constantly working around the clock to monitor, identify, and remove cheaters in game. The first line of defense against cheating is our systems that scan for suspect software and modified game data. Most cheating software is fairly easy to spot, as we have an enormous library of cheating software and techniques that allow us to catch hackers fairly quickly. We’re constantly adapting these detection efforts as we learn about new software and new methods, and this only gets more effective over time. This is the simplest way to catch cheaters, and one that we are constantly improving.


In an ideal world the above solution would be sufficient, and we could call it a day. But new software is constantly being developed, and the people who create this software are pretty clever at finding ways to hide it, so we need a second line of defense to stop the hackers who have managed to avoid detection. Because this is a sensitive area we’re going to have to keep this a little vague, since we don’t want to give hackers information they can use to make it harder to catch them! Essentially, our second line of defense is looking for impossible events in game, because cheating leaves tell tale signatures. There are shots you could make if you are lucky, and there are shots that literally can’t be made but somehow connect. That’s a cheater. If you drop in Pochinki, you can’t be at the Military Base 30 seconds later. That’s a cheater. So even if we can’t identify the exact hack cheaters are using, we can identify them through these methods. If they cheat, their behavior will give them away.


In some cases our systems identify someone as a probable cheater, but we can’t get quite enough evidence through game data to be absolutely sure. This is especially true for the most talented players in game, who pull off some stuff that seems like it’s cheating even when it’s probably not. For questionable cases where we have good reason to suspect that someone is cheating but can’t prove it, we can employ the final tactic in our arsenal: In-game Observation. This is very manpower intensive, but our commitment to catching every cheater we can is strong.


Those aren’t everything we are doing, there’s more we can’t talk about because we don’t want the cheaters to know how we’re catching them. In all cases, your reports truly help. Reports can help us revise our backend systems to identify cheating more quickly and accurately. Reports can help us identify players who we suspect of cheating, and get an observer on them. Reports come with tons of data in game that isn’t visible in a screenshot or video that can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that cheating is occurring.


Our community lead, Ocho, is a pretty avid player of PUBG MOBILE, although not the most skilled. Still he plays a lot, and about a month ago Ocho was convinced that he ran into a cheater. The guy hit him with a short spray from well beyond 100m with a 416, insta-knock, and immediately followed it up with another short spray to knock his remaining teammate that crated both of them.  The speed and accuracy from a lengthy distance were uncanny, and Ocho figured there was no way those shots were legit. After he reported the player in game, Ocho decided to spectate the killer in his righteous fury. And sadly, as Ocho watched the player, he realized that mostly the guy was just a lot better than him. Ocho and his teammates had moved down an unprotected hillside, and the other player had 2 good but lucky bursts that took them out of the game. Ocho watched him set up traps, gatekeep effectively, pick spots people were likely to move through, and use terrain to his advantage. The guy was accurate, but he missed shots like anyone else. He ended up taking the chicken dinner after losing his group, but nothing Ocho saw indicated in any way that he was cheating.


The moral of the story isn’t “get better” it’s that our perceptions of who is hacking and who is not are strongly biased by our subjective experience. Here are a couple of questions that we should ask ourselves about when considering if someone is a hacker:

  • Is the shot impossible or just improbable? One of the PMCO Spring Split’s amazing moments was a 300m+ headshot with a mini-14 by an SSG player. The shot was good, but at that range you need to be lucky too. He wasn’t cheating, he just had a great combination of luck and skill. A lot of “impossible” shots aren’t actually impossible, they just feel like it.
  • Could lag or packet loss issues possibly contribute? Many times we’ve seen reports of people shooting through walls, and when we review the video the person is dodging in and out of view behind an obstacle. A tiny bit of lag at the wrong moment could have left you exposed longer than you thought, and by the time the server was reconciled with your client as to your intended position you’d already been hit. On your screen that looks a lot like getting shot through a wall. If you’re near a window, that’s a real possibility.
  • Is the action purposeful? We’ve all seen rare bugs that occur where something odd happens in the game. One we’ve noticed is a very rare issue where something in game has issues with its Z-axis position and appears to jump repeatedly in the air, usually a motorcycle but sometimes a car. This can happen to players too, so they’ll seem to be leaping into the air super high over and over again. If it’s not purposeful, it might just be a bug. If it somehow gets the player an advantage, it’s more likely it’s actual cheating.
  • Is my evidence mostly from Spectate Mode? Spectate Mode is great, it lets us watch other people’s gameplay and learn a lot about how others play or cheer on friends. But while Spectate mode is usually pretty accurate, it isn’t as accurate as playing the game yourself. Potential lag issues are multiplied as you’re watching something impacted not only communications between you and the server, but also between that player and the server. Sometimes you may notice that people’s crosshairs aren’t precisely on the target when you see hit markers popping up, showing that Spectate Mode is slightly off at that time. In more extreme cases a player’s position may be more distorted, making it look like they are shooting through solid objects. Understanding the limitations of Spectate Mode definitely helps identify hackers (or non hackers) more effectively.


Ultimately targeting cheaters in game is only part of our overall efforts to protect your game experience. The real big fish are the people who create and advertise cheats. If we can make things harder on the suppliers, the users in this case really will decrease. Over the last few months we’ve shut down hundreds of social channels, removed many thousands of videos, dozens of discord servers where hacks are sold, and more. It’s incredibly satisfying watching a stream of a cheater in game advertising their wares go dark and realize that their ability to profit from trying to ruin your game is being reduced. A lot of the reports of videos and streams come from you, the players, and we thank you for bringing them to our attention. In a number of cases, when possible given the jurisdiction and laws of particular countries, we’ve even involved law enforcement in arresting and prosecuting people for their illicit behavior. We will continue to expand and scale these efforts to reduce the profit and punish when possible the people who create cheats. 


The people who create cheats aren’t taking our actions lying down, they’re trying to do everything they can to stay in business and make more profit. This includes coordinated communication campaigns, false messaging, and attempting to portray hacking as far more widespread than it actually is. If they can convince people that the only way to win is to hack, then they can potentially gain revenue from more users. These aren’t bored kids writing cheating software, it’s sophisticated groups who earn a living trying to ruin your gameplay. They want you to believe that there are magical programs that can never be detected, they want you to believe that everyone else is doing it, they want you to believe that it’s normal, all because then you are more likely to purchase their software. It’s about money for them, and they don’t care who they hurt. They will even distribute free versions of their hacks on occasion (although always more limited) to sucker people in to compromising themselves and getting banned; if you want to keep playing at that point you need to pay for the better version to keep from getting caught again right? A number of these groups have also engaged in credit card fraud and similar activities as well; since you are paying money to an unknown party to cheat in a video game it’s much harder to contest the charges. Make sure you take everything you see with a substantial grain of salt, cheaters aren’t honest.


These things are all making a difference, but we have much more planned. We’re looking at additional ways we can communicate with you (beyond daily and weekly updates), especially about players you have reported in the past so you can get more information on what actions are being taken. The first step in this process was our recent start of sending in game messages about hackers you have successfully reported, something a number of you have noticed and commented on. We’ve also made major improvements to our detection methods recently, while they are having a major effect we are actively working on various even more sensitive means of detection on our servers to keep the game cleaner than before. Finally, during Update 0.15.0 we will invest more service and computing resources to gradually start rolling out improvements to our Server Infrastructure that will enable us to detect efforts to hide cheating through making it appear that a player has a poor connection, allowing us to detect these cheaters even more quickly than before. We also pledge to increase our communication on this front, and thank you for your patience as we work to reduce the impact of these cheaters on your gameplay.




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