CSGO devs claim to have fixed a new report botting exploit
Nick J. August 19, 2020
CSGO developer John McDonald tweeted out that the game's development team had fixed CSGO's report botting issues highlighted in a recent video.
A recent video by CSGO YouTuber Sparkles highlighted the ability to manipulate CSGO's Overwatch mechanic to not only cause innocent players to receive bans, but to also protect their own accounts from being banned by the service. Just several days after the video's release, CSGO developers have said they've fixed the problem.
CSGO's cheating community had found a way around the game's developers patch that fixed report botting, according to the video. The video went into great detail regarding just how cheaters were using CSGO's Overwatch system against itself, and how the vast majority of the upper ranks of Counter-Strike matchmaking are populated by hackers.
These bots can be used to not only give innocent players overwatch bans for things such as griefing but can also be used to spam a cheater's own Overwatch demos with "not guiltys" verdicts, meaning that cheaters don't have to worry about waking up to Overwatch bans if they're able to manipulate them.
Overwatch demos reveal player's SteamIDs, leading to bans
The main problem stems from the fact that Overwatch demos aren't fully anonymized. With the help of third-party software or settings inside an actual cheat program, it's an easy matter to reveal the players inside an Overwatch demo. Once hackers have the SteamID of their victim, the IDs can be sent to CSGO's new wave of report bots that search Overwatch cases for that specific player. Once found, the bots overwhelm the system with guilty votes, all for griefing purposes.
The griefing bans make sense, especially since Valve introduced machine learning into their cheat detection. Luckily, due to the separation between Overwatch's community-moderated system and VAC, it's impossible for cheaters to manually give someone a cheat through Valve's anti-cheat system. But a 30-day ban for griefing is no joke, meaning that players' accounts can be locked down for more than a month on the whims of hackers.
Sparkle's video highlighted a serious loophole in CSGO's Overwatch system, but according to the hacker interviewed, the first step is a simple one. If Overwatch demos were completely anonymized and scrubbed of any identifiable information, that would go a long way to fixing this one specific exploit in a system that is meant to protect CSGO's community, not enable hackers to more easily harrass them.
But like all things, the fight against cheating in CSGO is ever ongoing, according to McDonald.
With adversarial problems, it is impossible to say "this will be fixed forever." It's probable bad actors will figure out how to bad act again in the future.