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Valve denies transmitting users' DNS cache

Valve denies transmitting users' DNS cache

Valve has refuted claims that it uses the DNS cache to monitor what websites its clients visit, explaining its use as a secondary check in its anti-cheating system.

Valve's Gabe Newell has spoken publicly to refute claims that his company's anti-cheating software, VAC, transmits a hashed list of all entries in a user's DNS cache - a complete history of all internet traffic from the past 24 hours, in other words - back to its servers for reasons unknown.

The accusations against Valve came as the result of a thread on social networking site Reddit in which users had reverse-engineered the VAC software and discovered that it created hashes for every entry in a user's DNS cache for reasons which appeared unclear. Some users went still further, claiming that this list of hashes was transmitted back to Valve's servers over an encrypted channel - giving the company a means of monitoring what its users are doing on the internet.

The DNS cache, active by default on Windows and configured to retain data for 24 hours, fills itself every time you look up a domain name - regardless of how that lookup is made. Clearing your history, or using a web browser's private browsing mode, provides no protection against monitoring of the DNS cache. Valve's use of the DNS cache, therefore, raised something of a privacy panic when it was discovered.

'We don't usually talk about VAC (our counter-hacking hacks), because it creates more opportunities for cheaters to attack the system (through writing code or social engineering). This time is going to be an exception,' Valve founder Gabe Newell explained in his response to the furore on Reddit.

'There are a number of kernel-level paid cheats that relate to this Reddit thread, claimed Newell. 'Cheat developers have a problem in getting cheaters to actually pay them for all the obvious reasons, so they start creating DRM and anti-cheat code for their cheats. These cheats phone home to a DRM server that confirms that a cheater has actually paid to use the cheat. VAC checked for the presence of these cheats. If they were detected VAC then checked to see which cheat DRM server was being contacted. This second check was done by looking for a partial match to those (non-web) cheat DRM servers in the DNS cache. If found, then hashes of the matching DNS entries were sent to the VAC servers. The match was double checked on our servers and then that client was marked for a future ban. Less than a tenth of one percent of clients triggered the second check. 570 cheaters are being banned as a result.

'Do we send your browsing history to Valve? No. Do we care what porn sites you visit? Oh, dear god, no. My brain just melted.
'

15 Comments

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RichCreedy 18th February 2014, 11:24 Quote
you could in theory clear it with a simple cli command ipconfig /flushdns
loftie 18th February 2014, 13:15 Quote
"refute claims that hsi company's"
Krikkit 18th February 2014, 13:45 Quote
Sounds like a pretty robust defence - what do we reckon folks?
Shirty 18th February 2014, 14:03 Quote
Works for me.
SimoomiZ 18th February 2014, 14:32 Quote
Guess they felt compelled to respond. Cheating sucks and detailing this can't help in the fight.
Bungletron 18th February 2014, 15:51 Quote
The cake is a lie.
mi1ez 18th February 2014, 21:02 Quote
So long as it's in the EULA, it's not really an issue for me.
Gurdeep14 18th February 2014, 21:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichCreedy
you could in theory clear it with a simple cli command ipconfig /flushdns

I thought that as well, but you would have to reboot the machine I guess, which can be annoying
Gomfs 18th February 2014, 21:55 Quote
"So long as it's in the EULA, it's not really an issue for me."
as long as the EULA is not worse than the law... else from that i agree.

cant say in example Germany or Norway "not our problem, its stands in the EULA" and show the EULA written for USA...
SexyHyde 19th February 2014, 00:37 Quote
Valve are definitely looking at all our porn. Why else has it taken them so long to make HL3?
Umbra 19th February 2014, 01:15 Quote
I don't know who is sadder, the lame gamers who use cheats or the cheat developers trying to make money from such garbage who then start creating DRM and anti-cheat code for their cheats
Reminds me why I never bother with multiplayer anymore.
StoneyMahoney 19th February 2014, 16:13 Quote
I thought the whole point of such anti-cheat measures was that we aren't supposed to know how they work. Our only option is to trust them or play something else.

EDIT: Hashes of the DNS cache are actually a very smart target to go after, browsers configured to use Tor still have to do local domain name resolutions.
Sloth 19th February 2014, 23:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by StoneyMahoney
I thought the whole point of such anti-cheat measures was that we aren't supposed to know how they work. Our only option is to trust them or play something else.

EDIT: Hashes of the DNS cache are actually a very smart target to go after, browsers configured to use Tor still have to do local domain name resolutions.
As Gaben states, they try to keep as quiet as possible about VAC and its functionality. With privacy being such a hot topic at the moment it was more or less a necessity to give a detailed and [seemingly] honest response to calm users' concerns.
erratum1 20th February 2014, 00:19 Quote
The thought of highly intelligent people in a multi billion dollar company going "hmm did you know he just visited realitykings?"

lol.
Anfield 20th February 2014, 01:22 Quote
Its a global conspiracy by isps.

In order to make you believe your internet connection is too slow every website you try to open is sent to Valve for approval where three employees need to click approve before you are able to access it. As Valve uses actual humans to do those approvals each time they go on lunch break you think your internet is slow, which makes you more likely to upgrade to a faster connection, the isp then gives Valve a commission on those sales which is how Valve really makes money and also why they can afford to not release HL3.
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