This is not a game: a network of software developers for cheaters exposed in China

This is not a game: a network of software developers for cheaters exposed in China


Fraudulent software creators made tens of millions of dollars

Kirill Senin
Kirill Senin

Law enforcement agencies in China have reported on the successful implementation of the world's largest operation to combat the creators of illegal software for cheaters - gamers who gain an advantage in the game by fraudulent means. The syndicate, which earned tens of millions of dollars a year, has assets of $ 46 million seized. Unlike many other countries, in China, members of a criminal organization that helped virtual fraudsters face real sentences. Details - in the material "Izvestia".

Homing weapons, an inexhaustible supply of ammunition, the ability to "see" opponents through walls ... These and other "superpowers" for gamers were supplied by an organized criminal network from China that developed and sold fraudulent software. Recently, its activities were suppressed by the law enforcement agencies of the PRC with the support of the Tencent corporation, which, among other things, produces computer games. The same company in 2018 helped the police catch about 120 players who used cheating applications for the game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.

As noted by lawyers, it is almost impossible to challenge the user agreements adopted when downloading games.

Game over

The operation was carried out in Kunshan County. As a result, law enforcement officers seized property worth $ 46 million, including a whole fleet of luxury sports cars. The company's turnover in the police was estimated at $ 76 million. These funds were obtained by software manufacturers for those who like to cheat in such computer games as Call of Duty through a one-time sale and subscription to fraudulent software - its cost ranged from $ 10 per day to $ 200 per month. Illegal products were bought by gamers in hundreds of regions of China and dozens of other countries. The police said that 10 people were arrested in the case, and almost two dozen fraudulent software products were destroyed.

The interest in such software is huge - the same Tencent in September last year estimated the Chinese segment of this black market at $ 293 million. The coronavirus pandemic helped popularize cheating programs - sales in China jumped 22% over the past year. The PRC market as a whole is extremely attractive for manufacturers of illegal products for gamers who are ready to move towards victory by deceiving other players - there were 665 million computer game fans in the PRC last year.


Winners are judged

Scientists believe that this way you can regain a sense of control over the situation and feel your own effectiveness.

In China, detainees face potentially very serious criminal penalties. According to local laws, even for the cheaters themselves, liability is provided in the form of imprisonment for up to five years. Persons involved in the development and sale of fraudulent gaming programs face even more severe punishment, writes the Gizmodo portal , specifying that in the United States, for example, only civil liability is provided for such offenses. Izvestia did not manage to find evidence of the application in Russia of the practice of applying administrative and even more criminal norms against cheaters or developers of fraudulent software.

Of course, players caught in a scam are threatened with a ban in the game with the closure of their account and the loss of all earned prizes and achievements. However, this does not stop everyone, and re-pumping your character from a new account is more a matter of desire and time .

The willingness of game publishers to liquidate the accounts of cheater players and cooperate with law enforcement agencies is easily explained: for them, this is a fight against loss of income. According to a survey conducted by Irdeto in six countries (China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States), between half and 86% of participants in online multiplayer games are willing to refuse to participate in them if they decide to compete they have to deal with dishonest rivals. Suspicions about the presence of cheaters in the game also reduces the willingness to donate - the acquisition of game items or skills for real money.

On January 1, applications that do not comply with the legislation of the Middle Kingdom will disappear from the store

To help in the fight against cheaters, game publishers also call on professionals from outside - hackers, who will help them identify vulnerabilities in their anti-fraud systems. Last year, for example, the Riot Games company offered a reward of up to $ 100 thousand for such assistance - those who wished were invited to point out the "holes" in the Vanguard system, with which the tactical shooter Valorant is protected from cheaters. Other publishers are also ready to financially support the hackers who came to their aid - for example, for Nintendo, the maximum compensation was $ 20 thousand, and for Rockstar Games - up to $ 10 thousand, Reuters wrote .

In some cases, publishers seek the protection of their rights in courts. So, in January of this year, the Riot Games company that created Valorant and the Bungie studio (the developer of the multiplayer shooter Destiny 2) filed a lawsuit against the company with the self-explanatory name GatorCheats. According to the plaintiffs, the activities of this fraudulent software manufacturer deprived them of millions of dollars in earnings, PC Gamer notes .


A game without rules

Sometimes gamers resort to cheating with the expectation of winning competitions or tournaments with monetary - and very generous - prizes. However, the organizers of such competitions try to closely monitor that the participants do not cheat. Cheaters, if identified, will naturally be expelled from the number of players and deprived of all bonuses and awards received. Developers are also taking rather creative steps to punish deceivers - in Fall Guys, for example, their characters were sent to Cheater Island, where they had to fight against each other, and in GTA online, a cap with the inscription Dunce was "put on" on the head of the cheater character (in translated - "dumbass" or "dunce").

Computer entertainment threatens to supplant cinema

Material interest is far from the only consideration guided by game crooks. “The main motivation for using cheats is the self-affirmation of the players. They just love to win, even if it's not fair. And people are ready to pay for this, ”said Natalya Odintsova, deputy editor-in-chief of the PLAYER ONE portal. According to her, " at tournaments with cash prizes, cheats are checked as strictly as possible, so they will not help here ." “Theoretically, it is possible to upgrade an account in the game with the help of cheats (relatively speaking, it is dishonest to get some kind of virtual property, like a rare dragon) and sell it, but such a sale is also illegal and is suppressed by the authors of the game. But it is quite possible to win several matches with the help of cheats, ”Odintsova clarified in an interview with Izvestia. -Most cheaters are tracked by special programs (for example, EasyAntiCheat) built into games, and sooner or later their account in the game is blocked. But they can create a new one and try to play unfairly again until they block it again. "

Even the scale of the criminal activities of the organization, whose members were arrested in China, and the amount of assets seized do not allow one to fully judge the scale of this type of illegal activity. “This story illustrates how attractive the craft of hackers creating cheating products has become,” notes BBC News . "What was once a handicraft for computer hackers who spotted gaps in game codes has become a massive criminal business."


Serkan Toto, an analyst at Kantan Games, recalls that for a very long time, the creators of cheating software acted with impunity. “They are extremely professional. If you look at some of the offers on their sites, there are shopping baskets, price lists and customer support services, - said the specialist in an interview with CBS News . - Some of these companies make millions every month. The scale of their activities in some cases is simply incredible - as are the profits. "

"Looks like heroin addicts"

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According to clinical psychologist Mikhail Khors, gamers can push addiction to violation of virtual game rules, and sometimes quite real legal norms. “In essence, such an addiction is a situation when people suffer, not achieving any results in the game, and at a certain stage - being left without the opportunity to play at all. This is a complete analogue of the withdrawal symptoms that drug addicts experience, "he said in a conversation with Izvestia.

In addition, like people addicted to gambling, gamers have "situations where they lose too much, and the only opportunity they see is to win back." “To recoup, not to make money - after all, it takes years. Therefore, people take loans, lose more, and the more they lose, the less they see opportunities for their financial rehabilitation, says Khors. “Gamers have the same story, they spend a lot of their time, and sometimes money, on it, throwing them into the purchase of magic swords or special cartridges.”

According to the expert, in such a situation, people who are addicted to the gameplay will "act not for the sake of achieving some goal, but in order to escape from pain." “It is very similar to heroin addicts who go to get drugs, realizing that they can be imprisoned,” the psychologist believes. "But punishment threatens only somewhere in the future, and that is not for sure, but they are experiencing suffering now, and it is real."

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