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Valve set a trap to catch and ban 40,000 Dota 2 cheaters

The update added a ‘honeypot’ to catch cheaters

Artwork from Dota 2 Image: Valve Software
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Valve issued an update to Dota 2 recently that patched an exploit used by players using third-party cheating clients, and in doing so, created a “honeypot” to catch those cheaters. The Dota 2 maker announced Tuesday that it banned more than 40,000 cheaters from playing its multiplayer online battle arena game.

Valve said the third-party cheating client allowed players to see information that isn’t normally available in-game, “giving the cheater an unfair advantage,” it said. Once the Dota 2 developer understood how the cheat worked, it fixed the exploit but added the “honeypot,” what it said is a piece of data that regular players would never see — but that the cheating client would read. All 40,000 accounts banned as part of this wave accessed the secret area, Valve said.

“The prevalence of this family of cheats means that today’s ban wave is particularly large, but it’s only the latest action in an ongoing campaign,” Valve said. “While the battle against cheaters and cheat developers often takes place in the shadows, we wanted to make this example visible, and use it to make our position clear: If you are running any application that reads data from the Dota client as you’re playing games, your account can be permanently banned from playing Dota.”

Valve underlined that all players using cheats will be punished, including any professional Dota 2 players. The company hasn’t said exactly what the third-party cheating program is or does. Polygon has reached out to Valve for more information.

The battle to address cheating extends much further than just Dota 2 and Valve; several companies with popular games have gone as far as taking cheat makers to count in attempt to hold them accountable for the practice. Most recently, Bungie won a $4.3 million lawsuit against Destiny 2 cheat developer AimJunkies — a website that sells cheats for a number of different games, including several for Valve’s own games. That $4.3 million win is on top of another $2 million it won alongside Valorant developer Riot Games in a settlement against cheat developer GatorCheats.