Yesterday Bethesda implemented a new variant of Anti-Cheat from Denuvo, which is called Denuvo Anti-Cheat. According to Irdeto (Denuvo's parent company), the Anti-Cheat "... doesn’t have annoying tray icons or splash screens, and this invisibility could raise some eyebrows." Well, it has raised more than some eyebrows, so let's see what all the fuss is about, shall we?
The Anti-Cheat will install the first time the game is started, installing a kernel-mode drive into the Program Files folder. When the game is uninstalled, the Anti-Cheat files are removed. When the game starts, Denuvo Anti-Cheat automatically starts, and when it's stopped, the Anti-Cheat automatically stops.
Denuvo is a GDPR-compliant sofware, and it doesn't take screenshots like other anti-cheat solutions. It collects "... information on how the OS interacts with the game and send[s] the information to Amazon-hosted serves for cheat detection."
When put like that, it sounds great, right? Not for a lot of people. The moment the update was announced there was a firestorm of controversy, with the Doom subreddit posting topics like how Denuvo can block people from playing if their ISP forces a Type 3 NAT connection on them, or if they are a Linux user because the kernel-level Anti-Cheat doesn't work on that operating system. That's not even mentioning how players shouldn't really be tolerating a kernel-level Anti-Cheat to begin with, as according to one user, it's an extremely "... invasive anti-cheat software that runs at ring-0 of your operating system."
Why shouldn't users tolerate the anti-cheat? The same user states that because it introduces a potential security vulnerability where someone could do a lot of damage if they somehow got control of it. So, for users that want to remove the Anti-Cheat, there's already a highly-upvoted thread where they can follow instructions to remove Denuvo's Anti-Cheat.
Interestingly, this is similar to Valorant's anti-cheat solution, although that runs all the time rather than only when the game launches for Doom Eternal. Time will tell if this gains any traction, though.
Before we published this article, we emailed both Bethesda and Iredeto for their comments. Michail Greshishchev, Product Owner at Denuvo Anti-Cheat, has responded. Here is their response in full:
TR: Why does Denuvo Anti-Cheat run even when the game is in single player?
MG: Denuvo Anti-Cheat doesn't perform cheat detection or collect data outside of competitive multiplayer matches. It starts with the game as the bare minimum technical requirement for achieving detection, just like Epic's Easy Anti-Cheat, Battleye, FACEIT Anti-Cheat, and others (except for Riot's Vanguard, which starts with the OS). This also implies that claims of Denuvo Anti-Cheat impacting singleplayer performance are misinformed.
TR: Many users are reporting that the game is crashing more since the update. Is this tied to the Anti-Cheat?
MG: Unlikely other Anti-Cheats which intrusively block cheats and applications, Denuvo Anti-Cheat only detects and reports. You're free to cheat, mod, and hook your game - but you will be banned from online services if done maliciously in a competitive multiplayer match. This "read only" approach means there is no reason to believe Denuvo would contribute to a game crash.
TR: Why do you believe that a kernel-level Anti-Cheat solution is needed in general?
MG: Denuvo doesn't believe in kernel-level Anti-Cheat, but we recognize it offers the best balance between usability and cheat detection effectiveness. User-level anti-cheats in 2020 are the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight, and rootkit anti-cheats violate gamer's expectation of usability. Existing Anti-Cheats need access to the Windows kernel for cheat detection 'tricks'. Denuvo doesn't really care about the Windows kernel and only needs kernel-level access to take advantage of modern hardware security features offered by Intel, AMD, and their chipsets.
TR: Linux gamers were previously able to play the game on Steam via Proton in singleplayer. Adding Denuvo Anti-Cheat there has blocked that - is there any way that Denuvo Anti-Cheat could allow the single-player to run on virtual machines while protecting multiplayer or removing it?
MG: We've been tracking the Proton issue immediately after launch and are committed to delivering a fix soon. This isn't a request coming to us from a publisher or anything like that - we genuinely respect such an enthusiast community and regret introducing this incompatibility on day 1.
Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.
What do you think of this update? Do you think Bethesda and Iredeto have gone too far? Let us know in the comments!