Author Gary McGraw of Exploiting Online Games

We don’t usually do features about books on GamerNode, but one particular title did catch our attention. The book is entitled Exploiting Online Games: Cheating Massively Distributed Systems. With a title like that, how could you not want to look inside to see what’s going on?

The authors state that the purpose of the book is not only to educate game companies in tightening up their security to prevent hackers and cheaters from taking an unfair advantage against the “good guys,” (non-cheaters) but to also inform and educate those who don’t cheat or hack at all. In the words of the authors:

“In our research for this book, we have broken no laws. We expect our readers likewise not to break the law using the techniques we describe.” The book deals with what Gary McGraw, one of the co-authors of the book, describes as “common knowledge” among online players. However, for those who aren’t aware of all this going on, the book is an eye-opener on just how far the corruption has spread and just how weak the security is on many online games.

We asked McGraw how the game publishers were reacting to the book, since he was exposing all the different weaknesses in their software and how hackers do this. Interestingly enough, the publishers were actually helpful in providing permission to the authors for screen shots in the book. Go figure.

But let’s let Gary McGraw speak for himself. GamerNode was able to catch the busy writer and had a chance to ask him some questions about his book, the state of online gaming as it relates to rampant cheating, and other issues.

McGraw thinks that cheating is in the eye of the beholder. He said “What if you press F1 and are able to cast three spells all at once? Is that cheating? Most people will say ‘no.’ What if you use Thotbot in World of Warcraft? Is that cheating? Most people will say, ‘Oh, that’s not cheating. That’s just gathering information to help it be more fun in playing the game…”

But on the flipside, he said that there were those that disagree with the gamers who thought doing these things was ok. “Other people will say, ‘hey, wait a minute, you’re not really supposed to know that [and cheat].”

With so many interpretations of what is cheating, McGraw commented, “…you can see that it’s a slippery slope figuring out what is cheating and what’s not – it’s difficult.”

Although the book is about cheaters and their techniques, it wasn’t written to help people to cheat. The intent of the authors was to “…make something obvious that has been happening the whole time so that maybe we’ll do something about it. My crusade is to teach software architects to build more secure systems…and design better games.”

For an interesting inside look at the seedier side of online gaming and a thorough analysis of what cheating has done to online gaming as a whole, Exploiting Online Games: Cheating Massively Distributed Systems is a good read. If you’re one of those gamers who can’t get enough scholarly game-related books to read, check this one out. Just don’t let the occasional corny chapter title keep you away.

The book is published by Addison Wesley and retails for $44.99. It was written by Greg Hoglund and Gary McGraw.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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