Valve cleverly battles Steam cheaters with two-factor authentication

The phone numbers that facilitate quick trades between accounts are now being used to battle CS:GO cheaters.

When it comes to battling cheaters and bandits, Valve is playing the long game. The company recently instituted a new rule for players of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the mega-popular online shooter created by Valve.

Anyone caught cheating will not only earn a ban on that Steam account, but any other Steam account associated with the same phone number. If the additional accounts don’t own the game yet, they won’t be able to purchase it. The new banning method was first reported by Kotaku.

That’s a wily move by Valve just months after it encouraged users to add a phone number to their accounts to expedite trades and market transactions. In late 2015, Valve put into place a three-day waiting period for gamers to trade items or sell them in Steam’s Community Market.

The idea was to prevent hackers from cleaning out a stolen account of all its bounty and selling it to unsuspecting third parties. There was one loophole to dump that trade deadline and allow honest gamers to avoid it: connect your account to your phone number to receive two-factor authentication codes via text message.

valve15days

An example of Steam’s 15-day waiting period. Many items are far more valuable than the one above.

By March, however, Steam decided three days wasn’t good enough and upped the waiting period to 15 days for accounts lacking two-factor authentication. That likely encouraged more people to add their phone numbers to their accounts.

Cheaters tend to own multiple accounts and trade items between them. That’s not necessarily cheating per se, just a tendency among the bad apples. If you frequently traded items between multiple accounts how likely would you be to want to wait 15 days?

The impact on you at home: And that’s why this latest move could be so clever. Now that Valve has more phone numbers from gamers it can more effectively ban cheaters. First time offenders get their phone numbers banned for three months, second offenders are banned for longer, with the ban duration increasing each time. It’s not a perfect solution as cheaters may have multiple working phone numbers to get around the restrictions, but it’s a smart start.

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Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
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