Now, I can already hear what you’re saying regarding that kind of doomsday perspective, and we will address those concerns in a second. However, there’s one thing we need to talk about first…
Why Does Ricochet and Other Anti-Cheat Software Use Kernel Level Access?
Let’s say you’re away on vacation and decide to hire a security guard to watch your house. However, you only grant them permission to stand outside the front door. Their presence may chase away some potential burglars, and nobody would be able to utilize the most obvious path into your home, but someone could still use the backdoor, sneak in through a window, etc.
The idea behind kernel-level anti-cheat software is that you’re instead granting that guard access to the interior of your house as well as granting them access to a variety of tools designed to help monitor as much of the house as possible. In theory, anti-cheat software with kernel access can see hacking software coming from any direction simply because it is able to at least have eyes on everything requesting permission to access your computer. In that sense, it’s more like having a security guard that exists from within the foundation of your home.
Does that sound great? Well, it can be a great thing, but it’s not a perfect solution. Not only is there no such thing as a 100% effective level of anti-cheat software (which we’ll get to in a bit), but there are inherent concerns with granting anyone or anything that kind of access to something that is valuable to you.
Why is Kernel Level Anti-Cheat Software a Security Concern?
Well, to be clear, it might be more accurate to say that kernel-level anti-cheat software is a potential security concern. Anytime you grant any outside element that level of access to something that’s important to you, you’re potentially exposing yourself to an increased level of risk. However, it doesn’t mean that you’re absolutely going to have a security problem.
Even if you’re relatively comfortable granting a company like Activision (or anyone else) that level of access, the fact is that a lot of people are not. Beyond being a simple trust concern, there’s also the idea that this level of anti-cheat software is, fundamentally, overkill and that it just opens the door to too many risks that are more significant than in-game hackers. Yes, people want to prevent hackers and cheaters, but there’s a debate over whether or not blocking hackers and cheaters is really worth granting an application that kind of access and even running the risk of making your computer more vulnerable to more malicious activity. Others just don’t want any third-party program to have that level of access at any time.