Nintendo Patent Attestation Anti-Cheat Anti-Modding cover

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Nintendo Patents Anti-Cheat and Anti-Modding Code

May 19, 2022

By: Robert N. Adams

 
 

A new Nintendo patent has been published that shows how "attestation programs" can be used in anti-cheat and anti-modding applications for games.

Things have been a little rough for Nintendo lately. While it launched the highly-anticipated sports game Nintendo Switch Sports and recently announced another batch of great indie games, it has had to cut back its sales forecasts for the Nintendo Switch due to chip shortages and supply chain issues. The company's work continues nonetheless, and one of its newest creations could make it much more difficult to cheat in games or use mods.

 

Nintendo Patent Attestation Anti-Cheat Anti-Modding Figures
A couple of diagrams that detail this new anti-cheat approach. (Image Source: Nintendo's USPTO application)

How the Nintendo Anti-Cheat Patent Works

OP Attack reported on the newest Nintendo patent earlier today; this patent makes use of "attestation programs" to check if a game's code has been changed in an unintended way.

The patent in question, as always, explains everything in immense detail and is virtually the length of a short novel. Here's one of the more interesting snippets from the patent application:

 
 

[0017] The technology described herein thus improves upon the conventional approach, in part, by using attestation programs that employ "code reuse" techniques. As a non-limiting example, certain return-oriented programming ("ROP") or jump-oriented programming ("JOP") techniques can be used by "attackers" to bypass security defenses by selecting specific sequences of instructions already present in system memory and execute the instructions out of the intended order to achieve a functionality that may not have been originally present in the software.

[0018] The technology described herein can use ROP/JOP techniques for automatically building attestation programs from code sequences already present in the game. As an example, there may be thousands of usable code sequences in a typical game. By themselves, these sequences are not necessarily related to a particular attestation program/approach. But, these code sequences can be chained together in a combination to perform a new function (e.g. memory check, hashing operation.)

To put it into layman's terms, Nintendo's patent describes a system where unrelated pieces of a game's code can be used to generate a thumbprint of sorts. This could make a system checking a code's integrity much more difficult to detect and, consequently, much more difficult to bypass.

Nintendo's patent (Application Number 17/592,944) is currently listed as "Ready for Examination," so it doesn't appear to have been granted just yet. If it does go through, it may be more difficult than ever to cheat in or mod Nintendo games in the future.