The people at the game-hacking site Artificial Aiming can't stand the anti-cheat service Punkbuster. One of their members is going on the offensive today -- aggressively.
They say they're banning innocent Battlefield 3 users -- "framing" them, as they put it -- to show their disdain for Punkbuster, a service that PC players of the popular first-person shooter are compelled to install when they start the game.
The hackers have narrowed their target to Battlefield 3 users who are playing on servers that are tied into the cheat-detecting service GGC-Stream.
"We are bringing back the unerring of punkbuster back for a third season," Artificial Aiming user anonpbspoofer boasted in a forum post yesterday.
"We have selected ggc-stream as the target since they have the most streaming BF3 servers and makes it very easy to add fake bans. In 2011 we hit them with a mass ban wave and now were are banning real players from battlelog while ggc-stream is totally unaware. We have framed 150+ BF3 players alone."
The results are a torrent of complaints on the Battlefield forums, on Reddit and in our tips box from Battlefield 3 users who were set up with seem to be bogus bans.
"So it looks like the hackers/cheaters are unhappy and are now targeting innocent people?," one user wrote on an official Battlefield forum thread entitled "Punkbuster got hacked. We got banned"
"This is... immoral," a Reddit user wrote. "And something NEEDS to be done about it, ASAP."
The Battlefield Twitter hasn't acknowledged a hack but did run a notice about Punkbuster errors a few hours ago: "We are aware of this concern and are looking into it, now. Thanks for being patient."
An EA spokesperson told Kotaku they are looking into the matter. We've not heard back from Punkbuster yet.
Only PC users appear to be affected, as Punkbuster is not integrated to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game.
The anti-Punkbuster hackers very much want credit for this and want to prove they're doing the bans, so they're posting images. Here's one of a supposedly framed user:
PC shooter players often complain that Punkbuster isn't as good at stopping cheaters as it's supposed to be. If the hackers are right, it's also porous enough to have allowed some mischievous players to slip through it and start banning players who did no wrong.
We'll let you know how this shakes out as we find out more.
Update: Some members of Artificial Aiming may be cheering on the supposed hacked bannings that were announced on their forums by user anonpbspoofer, but AA staffer Doober has posted a note, saying, "This has nothing to do with AA. The person who posted the first link is a junior member here."
Update 2: EA says:
We are aware that some Battlefield 3 players are experiencing connection issues with PunkBuster enabled servers. This problem is limited to a small subset of players on PC and will not impact players on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. We are actively looking into the specifics of this issue and we are confident that we will have a permanent solution in place shortly. In the meantime, if a player's connectivity has been affected, we recommend that in the interim they join servers that are not running PunkBuster. There is a filter setting for this in the multiplayer server browser.