Riot Games announced early on that they wanted to take tough action against cheaters. Valorant uses its own anti-cheat software Vanguard, which is now causing a stir.
The closed beta of Valorant is currently enjoying great popularity among those who have been granted access. Everyone else keeps watching Twitch and hopes to get a beta key dropped. Since direct competitors, especially CS:GO, have always had big problems with cheaters, Riot Games promised that they will take care of this problem from the very beginning.
Vanguard is the name of the anti-cheat software used Riot's tactical shooter Valorant's. In the past few days, the program had some success and has already banned some of the first hackers. So far it seems to work well but some interested players took a closer look at it.
Some problems were identified:
As reported on Reddit, Vanguard is a kernel driver that is deeply embedded in the system and runs continuously. It runs automatically in the background at every system startup, not just when the game is started. Disabling or uninstalling is only possible via detours that you have to know about and even then Vanguard is reinstalled at game start. Vanguard runs in the so-called ring 0 of the Windows kernel, i.e. at the deepest level of the system, whereby it has administrator rights from the system start.
This, of course, raises security concerns, which are not necessarily mitigated by the fact that Riot Games is largely owned by the Chinese company Tencent. Tencent is known to be very close to the Chinese government and has often been targeted by data protectionists. What if Vanguard is hacked? The hackers would have full access to all systems on which it is installed. You wouldn't even notice it because the anti-cheat driver is only updated when the game starts.
Comparable anti-cheat programs like BattlEye or EasyAntiCheat also run as kernel drivers, but only start when the game is started and exit when the game ends.
Riot Games' Statement
Riot Games also confirmed on Reddit, the function of Vanguard and that it runs directly on boot.
They emphasize, however, that the program does not scan anything until the game is running and it does not communicate with Riot's servers. Also, the driver should use as little system resources as possible and thus won't interfere with other processes. The forced autostart of Vanguard is explained by the fact that a popular way to trick anti-cheat programs is to start the cheat software before the game starts and by further manipulation make sure that it remains undetected. This would be much harder if the anti-cheat software runs continuously. It is also pointed out that Vanguard was developed with great care and has been checked by several external security companies.
For the time being, Riot Games intends to stick with its anti-cheat software but promised to remove it if it did more harm than good in the future.