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Riot Vanguard Anti-Cheat Explained

Last Updated August 13, 2022

Vanguard is a piece of anti-cheat software developed by Riot Games to prevent hacking or the use of gaming exploits to maintain what Riot terms "competitive integrity." Vanguard operates in the background and will immediately stop anything it determines is attempting to tamper with the game's fairness by cheating or changing it. The message "Vanguard has banned something from loading on your machine" will appear if Vanguard finds something it believes to be malicious.

How does it work?

Vanguard has two essential parts implemented by Riot Games: a conventional scanner that starts with your gameplay and a device driver that begins with your software. However, the most considerable criticism from privacy-conscious users was that this driver continues to operate even when you're not gaming Valorant. You cannot even start the game without granting your Vanguard kernel access. The operating system of your computer's "kernel," which manages all software and hardware operations, is its brain. 

Vanguard needs kernel-level access to ensure there isn't any meddling when your computer boots. To avoid being detected as "third-party software," which is a red signal by all currently available effective anti-cheat solutions, modern cheat producers use "kernel injections," which essentially embed the cheats directly into your operating system. Vanguard operates around the clock to add an extra layer of defense against these frauds.

Vanguard has gone one step further and begins watching your computer as soon as it is turned on. The gaming community has vehemently opposed this added function, some even labeling it "shady" and infringing on gamers' privacy. These phone calls are appropriate. Vanguard monitors any apps that run concurrently with the game and change user experience using a kernel-level driver (similar to Fortnite's Simple AntiCheat). 

Vanguard and other kernel-running applications entirely access the computer's hardware and software features. It gives the program total power over the machine, allowing it to modify drivers, monitor software activity, read system history, download and analyze any data on the hard drive, and access user data stashed throughout the entire PC. Vanguard is set up to block or disable specific drivers and their applications. Although we cannot give you a detailed list of the drivers that Vanguard will prevent, we can tell you the kinds of drivers it will unquestionably prevent, including tools for temperature monitoring, fan control, and graphics overclocking. 

Now, in the perspective of Vanguard, software like this makes use of drivers that are known to be weak and may pose a safety risk to the game. Riot, which developed Core Temp, believes these flaws may still be dangerous even though the developers of Core Temp themselves are unaware of them. Riot clarifies the situation by stating, "Vanguard blocks drivers with known weaknesses in security (typically privilege rise via entirely artificial memory writes) that enable cheat designers to load their cheat codes into the kernel without authorization from Microsoft."

 However intrusive it may appear, most games require anti-cheat software that closely monitors your behavior to detect even the best cheating tools. Games use all kernel-level anti-cheat programs like Fortnite, PUBG: Battlegrounds, RS6, and Apex Legends. The distinction is that they only start when the user launches the game. Users perceived that Vanguard assumed total control of a computer by starting up as soon as the device was turned on and that it could detect patterns even when a person was using it for personal purposes. 

This came to light when multiple claims surfaced on forums like Reddit that Vanguard had restricted this person's access to the ASUS motherboard suite and MSI Afterburner, which regulates and enables users to track CPU temperature. Other customers complained that the application was preventing them from using their keyboard and mouse, as well as BSOD problems that could only be fixed by restarting the computer safely. 

Vanguard has improved its notification system to enhance communication between the user and the program. Updates have ensured that the program bans fewer PC apps. Paul Chamberlain, the director of this anti-cheating software, has stated that additional updates will make the game safer. The game is continually trying to improve the gaming experience.

Riot Vanguard Anti-Cheat Effective?

Riot Games has also expressed pride in what they have accomplished with Vanguard. Despite some of the security issues mentioned above, the program does a fantastic job discouraging cheaters. In reality, throughout our testing, we rarely ran into any. In one case, a cheater was discovered at the party and kicked off the servers, resulting in the game's cancellation. 

A few worries were calmed as announcements from Riot Games acknowledged security issues. Since then, users have recognized the software's efficiency in doing the tasks for which it was created. Riot Games says it has a cutting-edge wall-hack deterrent mechanism called "fog of war" superior to CS: GO.

97% of gamers, as per Riot Games, have never been accused of cheating. Of the rest, 3% of gamers were notified. However, only 20% of them were reported twice. Additionally, less than two players reported 90% of the registered players. Only 0.6% of gamers have reported cheating more once, and 0.3% have reported cheating three times or more. The excellent results indicate that Vanguard typically does a good job. 

Having an FPS game without cheaters is complex, and no anti-cheat solution is perfect. Riot also uses manual checks in addition to its anti-cheat measures to safeguard the wholeness of the competition at esports events. 

Because Valorant has a similar proportion of cheaters to its main rival CS: GO, Vanguard is now on a level with industry norms. CSGO bans about 2,500 players daily while averaging more than 729,000 players daily. Riot explained that the 0.3% for Vanguard and the 0.4% for the banned cheats are similar.

Additionally, they "rewarded security experts with almost a million dollars in bounties" during testing for discovering holes in their system, which they subsequently fixed. As a result of their ability to identify and eliminate cheaters using such comprehensive techniques, Valorant has become a shelter for players seeking unadulterated gaming experiences due to valve anti-cheat system. 

Riot Games has also ensured that security worries are alleviated, individuals are flocking to the game, and allegations of privacy violations are extremely rare by aggressively addressing complaints and improving user experience. Since the game's post-beta release, it has grown stronger with the potential to dominate the FPS market for many years.

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