Valve Just Executed Its Biggest CS: GO Ban Wave Ever, Over 34K Hackers Affected

I’ve been playing competitive shooters for a long time. As early as 2002 I played in my first Counter-Strike tournament, and competed for cash prizes. Although I’ve seen the series evolve significantly over time, a few things haven’t changed much. Among them is hacking.

Hacking seems just as prevalent today as it did back then. It’s often that I play with or against someone who plays in a sketchy manner, and all it takes is a few minutes of watching a replay to confirm my suspicions. But at that point a competitive game had already been affected, players frustrated, and all without resolve.

Valve has been hit by a lot of flak the past couple years for what the CS: GO community believes is a lack of effort in combating hackers. It’s common to see known hackers go years without being banned, able to compromise the experience of hundreds of competitive games before anything is done. And even once the ban arrives, all it takes is $15~ and a few hours for the hacker to jump right back into the thick of things on a new account.

Valve might be slow to execute ban waves, but when they come they are mighty. And such was the case of today’s ban wave, which is the largest in CS: GO‘s history.

SteamDB’s data indicates that during the past 24 hours over 34,000 CS: GO accounts have been banned. Under accordance of Valve’s rules, this prevent playing on VAC-secured game servers for four games including CS: GO, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Day of Defeat: Source, and Team Fortress 2. It is also non-negotiable, and permanent.

The number of accounts affected is nearly double the 15,000 that were banned in October 2016, which previously was the largest ban wave ever instituted by Valve.

Valve typically lets its VAC system automatically catch players who use known software. However, there are many newly constructed systems that have unknown footprints, making it impossible for VAC to detect them without Valve identifying their behavior over time.

July2017VACBans

Due to this, on an average day around 4,000 to 5,000 players are banned automatically. The volume of bans is very consistent, as indicated on SteamDB (see image above). This makes it very easy to identify when Valve deploys a new anti-cheating measure, especially in the case of today where the figure jumped up six-fold.

Much of the difficulty in tracking down hacks comes from the more specialized software, the ones that are made by experienced programmers and sold on the market for a high price. These hacks are usually made for only a small number of players, greatly reducing their visibility.

In many cases, the hackers have skins and other games on their account. It’s common for hackers to feel safe over time, further investing in their account. This commonly leads to accounts worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars losing everything they have.

More than anything, these efforts by Valve are vital to the continued success of CS: GO as an eSports title. Any game compromised by hacking is difficult to take seriously, let alone spend any time playing.

CS: GO‘s next major tournament will be host in Poland on July 16th. Titled PGL Major Krakow 2017, it will have a $1 million prize pool.