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EA anti-cheat system raises privacy and security concerns

Accessing the kernel.
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The World Cup is coming later this fall and game giant EA must be anticipating it will be a busy time of year for football-based games, like its FIFA series – and has prepared some “in house” and remarkably intrusive technology to protect its revenue streams.

And so, it is FIFA 23 that is the first to receive a new anti-cheat system for PC games called EA AntiCheat (EAAC). What makes this one special is that it is implemented at the kernel level – the very heart of an operating system.

For now, FIFA 23 is obviously top of mind over at EA, so the company said this week that the new system will not go into every of its games, at least for now – EA will reportedly be evaluating where to slip the EAAC on a “case-to-case basis.”

Cheats are described as tampering – but one could say the same about introducing anti-cheat patches into the kernel, where the level of system permissions means tampering can wreak havoc, both from the security and the privacy point of view.

But EA’s senior director of game security, Elise Murphy, says it is “absolutely vital” to go into the kernel, because cheat developers are “increasingly moving there” – and the game behemoth apparently merely wants to secure “an even playing field” for itself.

However, EA is well aware of the privacy and security concerns that PC gamers have when it comes to kernel-level anti-cheat tech, and offered assurances that the implementation has “a strong focus on privacy.”

Take that for what you will, but Murphy promises that EAAC will only be collecting limited information and “look” only at what it needs to prevent cheats.

Murphy also mentioned that EA has worked with unnamed independent 3rd party security and privacy services companies to make privacy a priority.

And although not explicitly stated, the kernel in question here is that used by Microsoft Windows PCs. Because tampering with the system at the kernel level runs contrary to the nature and purpose of Linux, this means that EAAC will likely break FIFA 23 for users of this open source OS.

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