PunkBuster

From Academic Kids

PunkBuster is a computer program to prevent cheating in online games published by Even Balance, Inc. It has recently been deployed in several popular multiplayer online games, including Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Vietnam, America's Army, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor Pacific Assault.

Contents

History

The first beta of PunkBuster was announced on September 21, 2000 for Half-Life. Valve Software was at the time fighting a hard battle against cheating, which had been going on since the release of the game. The first game in which PunkBuster was integrated was id Software's Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

Basics

PunkBuster for Half-Life was a standalone application that ran in the background at the same time as the game. Since the release of PunkBuster for Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the program has been integrated with the game engine. The game server can communicate with the PunkBuster program and check if the client is following the rules set down for the game. PunkBuster also communicates with dedicated servers to check for updates.

Published features

  • Real-time scanning of memory by PunkBuster Client on players' computers searching for known hacks/cheats using a built-in database.
  • Throttled two-tiered background auto-update system using multiple Internet Master Servers to provide end-user security ensuring that no false or corrupted updates can be installed on players' computers.
  • Frequent status reports (highly encrypted) are sent to the PunkBuster Server by all players. When necessary, the PunkBuster Server raises a violation which (depending upon settings) will cause the offending player to be removed from the game and all other players to be informed of the violation.
  • PunkBuster Admins can also manually remove players from the game for a specified number of minutes or permanently ban if desired.
  • PunkBuster Servers can optionally be configured to randomly check player settings looking for known exploits of the game engine.
  • PunkBuster Servers can be configured to instruct clients to calculate partial MD5 hashes of files inside the game installation directory. The results are compared against a set configuration and differences logged, and optionally, the client removed from the server.
  • PunkBuster Admins can request actual screenshot samples from specific players and/or can configure the PB Server to randomly grab screenshot samples from players during gameplay.
  • An optional "bad name" facility is provided so that PunkBuster Admins can prevent players from using offensive player names containing unwanted profanity or racial slurs.
  • Search functions are provided for PunkBuster Admins who wish to search player's keybindings and scripts for anything that may be known to exploit the game .
  • The PunkBuster Player Power facility can be configured to allow players to self-administer game servers when the Server Administrator is not present entirely without the need for passwords.
  • PunkBuster Servers have an optional built-in mini HTTP web server interface that allows the game server to be remotely administered via a web browser from anywhere over the Internet.

Attacks on PunkBuster

Being a security system of sorts, PunkBuster is an obvious target for attacks. As PunkBuster is frequently updated (using an autoupdate feature) cheats are being blacklisted very soon after they are reported. Theoretically it is possible to create a new program, following the PunkBuster protocol that always reports that everything is as it should be. However, the frequent updates are a deterrent, as such a program would quickly be outdated. Today people are less likely to share the cheats, as a widely spread cheat is more likely to get blacklisted soon. So far there have not been any successful large-scale attacks on the system. In adition Punkbuster incorporates a system called global banning. Either the GUID (generated from the CD key) or parts of the computer hardware are banned from Punkbuster enabled servers. Most cheats simply will get a detection, but cheats that interfere with Punkbuster's software could get a global GUID ban. This will disallow access to Punkbuster enabled servers for that particular game. Cheats which are even more interfering could end up being the user banned from all Punkbuster enabled games by a hardware ban, although there are ways to circumvent this.

Games which use PunkBuster

External links

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