Curse is marketing their latest product, a VOIP solution called Curse Voice, as an alternative to products like Skype and Teamspeak. Their appeal to consumers in a recent press release is that the risks of gaming online are too great to attempt with traditional online forms of communication. When angering an annonymous someone in a game of Call of Duty can bring an armed police response to your doorstep, people who play online need a better solution.
Polygon reached out to Curse's chief technology officer, Michael Comperda, to find out how his technology hopes to protect users from DDOS and swatting attacks.
"When you look at products like Skype or Google Hangouts and Facebook," Comperda told Polygon, "those things are very personal. You generally interact with your family and friends and generally we don’t have to worry about those people swatting us or DDOSing us.
"But when you’re playing games, I think there’s a legitimate need in the community and in the market for a product that is very much a gamer identity. And I think that’s where Curse Voice fits in. It’s not only a technology solution here, but it really is a product solution where you have this thing that can connect you to all your gamer friends and it protects you so that you can enjoy Skype or Facebook for your real-life relationships."
The secret to their system, Comperda said, was that while other solutions — including Skype — rely on peer-to-peer connections, Curse Voice is a cloud-based system.
"Open your Windows Task Manager," while you're making a call with Skype, Comperda said. "Bring up the resource monitor ... click the little network tab. You will see dozens, if not hundreds, of connections out on the internet.
"With Curse Voice you’ll actually see one connection that persists, and that’s direct connection to one of our servers that we host in the cloud. And if you’re in a call there’ll be one additional connection just to that cloud-powered voice host. And that’s it. Just two."
Limiting the number of connections reduces the number of vectors that attackers have to finding your IP address while you game online, and an IP address Comperda said can lead to things like DDOS attacks and, ultimately, swattings.
"Frankly, something has to stop here. It’s gotten out of hand."
"We work with a lot of streamers," Comperda said. "We’re all gamers, so we’ve actually experienced DDOS’ ourselves. Our websites included. People attempt to DDOS our websites pretty much every day. And the reason that I lump together swatting and DDOS is because ... both of those are intrusions, and they are affecting a person’s virtual life or real life.
"Frankly, something has to stop here. It’s gotten out of hand. So, I don’t know if Curse Voice is the answer to all of these things, but I think it’s a disruptive product. I think it has a huge benefit to any gamer that wants to try it out."
The Curse Voice product is completely free, Comperda told Polygon. Eventually it will be fully integrated into the Curse client, which among other features allows for mod and addon management for games like World of Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim and World of Tanks. There's also a Curse tool for Minecraft.
Comperda said that while Curse is primarily ad supported, and their Curse client offers a premium subscription, the Voice tool doesn't have ads and will always be free to use.
Other solutions that players have used for generations include Teamspeak and Ventrillo, but these types of services are even more porous than Skype.
"If you think about Teamspeak and Ventrilo, they’re very fragmented and sharded communities. You’re putting your trust into the admins and other people that have power on the servers."
"We’re a professional company that’s been around for a while, so users can feel safe I would say versus trusting some random guy on the internet to run a legitimate Teamspeak server."