Video game ‘cheats’ are as old as the video games industry itself. In fact, games developers add their own cheats to make it easier to test or review their games. A classic cheat might make the player’s character immortal, or provide shortcuts from level to level.
But in today’s online gaming world, hackers reverse-engineer the underlying code of online games to give cheaters an unfair advantage. While old-fashioned cheats gave individuals a chance to explore game worlds in new ways, cheats for online multiplayer games impact the whole network.
Ruining the game impacts players and games developers alike. And cheats compromise the security of their users and everybody else in the game. Historically, this took the form of DDoS and similar attacks. Today’s cheats bring the risk of privacy breaches and malware into massively multiplayer online games (MMOs).
At Surfshark we believe in fairness. While you game on our VPN not only will your privacy be protected, but so will your IP address making it impossible for hackers to execute a DDoS attack on you.
But we’re not done there. We wanted to discover which of the most popular games put our users at the greatest risk of cheaters. So, we analyzed search data from Google and YouTube to identify the online games with the most cheaters and the countries with the densest population of cheaters. And we created a series of gifs to explain how hackers cheat in online first-person shooting games.
- The most-cheated online game is Fortnite, with 26,822,000 YouTube hits for cheating-related videos.
- Fortnite has three-times as many cheaters as second-placed Overwatch, which got 9,279,829 hits.
- Aimbots account for double the amount of cheat queries as wallhacks for the 15 games in our study (43,228,197 vs. 26,340,664 views).
- Sweden is the country with the most cheating per capita, with 145 Google searches for cheats per million people.
Fortnite is the Most-Cheated Game on the Web
No online game gets more play than Fortnite. At the last count, the game’s 350m users had totted up nearly 10.5 million years of gameplay. It’s no wonder gamers are getting played, too; our study found Fortnite to be the most-cheated online game. The aimbots of Fortnite outnumber wallhacks 2:1, and are often used together with triggerbots to automatically aim and fire at opponents. Epic Games has stated it has “a zero tolerance policy for the usage of cheat software.”
The second-most cheated game is the futuristic “hero shooter” Overwatch. Cheating is such an issue that players have formed a group of in-game vigilantes, calling themselves the Overwatch Police Department. The group plays a kind of meta-game, finding evidence of cheating in gameplay and through undercover work on message boards. “I like to think that the Overwatch Police Department is a beacon of hope,” says the department’s self-appointed sheriff.
How Hackers Cheat in First-Person Shooters
Hackers cheat by accessing the underlying code and memory of online games in order to give themselves special powers while playing. The most common forms of cheat are aimbots and wallhacking. Scroll on to see these hacks demonstrated as gifs.
Imagine you’re a rogue Westworld robot with access to the live map of Sweetwater. You know exactly where everyone else is. You run a routine to lock on to your enemy the instant they offer a headshot. That’s what an aimbot does: hackers access the code to figure out where the other players are, even if they should be out of sight according to the physics of the game. An aimbot’s crosshairs zone in on the opponent automatically, the moment they wander into the open.
Wallhacking is similar in that a wallhacker exploits the code of a game to get location info on the other players. But while an aimbot uses that information to target automatically, the wallhack provides the cheater with a live guide to exactly where their opponents are – even if they’re out of view behind a wall.
Where in the World Are Gaming’s Cheaters?
According to the figures, Sweden has the title of ‘world champion’ for cheating, with the US and Australia tied in second place. Sweden is known for excellence in esports (e.g. the top three Swedish Fortnite players have combined winnings of over $1m) but it is important to note that e-gaming is believed to be relatively free of cheats. Perhaps Sweden’s swathes of gaming cheats are simply trying to emulate the skills of their local idols.
The Path from Cheats to Malware
Whenever something – anything – gets popular, somebody’s going to find an angle. Online gaming is no exception.
“For the higher-end cheats I’ve made, I’ve sold them for hundreds of dollars a month. Usually $100,” says Bill Demirkapi. Leasing cheats on a Software-as-a-Service basis is an effective way to get a regular income while negating the money conscientious players have shelled out for the game.
A hacker with the skills to develop a cheat also has the coding skills to create malware. An aimbot even has the same goal as malware: attack without being detected. The UK’s National Crime Agency reports that gamers who hang out on cheat sites to learn the ropes have been known to progress to cybercrime. If you enjoy online gaming, it is essential to protect your gear and your data by using a VPN that’s fast enough for gaming.
And when you make the choice to play with integrity, you increase the chance of the game’s legitimate developers to work on a sequel. After all, nobody wants to play a game where everyone else is cheating.
Methodology & Sources
Which Games Have the Most Cheaters?
Our data team compiled a list of 15 popular first-person shooters that suffer from cheating using reports from CNBC, SportsKeeda and The Verge. Then they searched for the game + wallhack, and game + aimbot on YouTube and collated the total number of views across the top videos for each search term.
Which Countries Cheat the Most?
Using Ahrefs, our data team gathered the total search volume in each country for gaming cheat related searches in both Google and YouTube. We then divided the total search figure by the number of internet users, and multiplied by 1,000,000 to get a searches per 1 million people figure for each country.
Cheating search terms were as follows: aimbot, aimbots, aim bot, aim bots, wallhack, wallhacks, wall hack, wall hacks, lag switching, lag switch. Data was collected in January 2021.