Bot detector targets cheaters

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Articles - January 2010
Thursday, December 17, 2009

GoblinWu-chang Feng has a solution to a problem that irks producers and players of “massively multiplayer online” games (MMOs) such as World of Warcraft. Feng says his software, called Fides after the Roman goddess of trust, can evaluate the software of any computer game and see if cheaters have tampered with the coding. “[Cheating] is a big deal in MMOs,” says Feng, associate professor of computer science at Portland State University. “Many people are using bot software to generate wealth.” Since items in online games are exchanged for real currency, Feng says huge shadowy industries have arisen around non-human users that play the game continuously, seeking the items. He says they spoil the game experience and increase costs to companies that host the games. Armed with a $186,000 grant from Intel, he and PSU grad student Ed Kaiser developed the anti-bot program as part of a security course at the university. “Using it for malware and virus problems is very similar to the cheating problem,” he says. The team debuted the software in mid-November at the Association for Computer Machinery Conference on Computer and Communications Security. Feng plans to market his bot-buster to game developers. “The last thing they want is bots,” he says. 

WILLIAM E. CRAWFORD
 

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