You’re looking forward to a nice, straight forward game of Among Us. Well, as straightforward as a game where you’re trying to spot the alien impostors on a rapidly collapsing spaceship can be, but you know the rules of the game and you know what to expect. Wait, why did that guy just vent immediately after completing a task? Only impostors can vent! And did someone just kill another player from across the ship? And who the heck is Eris Loris?
The answer is the same for all three – your game of Among Us has been hacked.
And it’s far from the first time. Why has this game become the biggest target for game hackers in the online gaming world? Among Us is far from the first game to become a target for cheating and hacking, but there are a number of elements that make this tense game of survival and deduction one of the most inviting.
The first is, it’s been sitting there mostly undetected for years. When it was released as an independent game giving a sci-fi twist to the classic games like Mafia and Werewolf, it slipped under the radar. Created by a small team of programmers a ta gaming start-up named Inner Sloth, it didn’t get much attention until 2020 when gamers with a lot of time on their hands discovered it and started posting streams of their games on Twitch and YouTube. Suddenly, these popular influencers brought a massive new audience to the game. And with a massive new audience, came less than savory elements looking to take advantage. Among Us has two main points for hacking.
The first is the game mechanics itself, where users can upload code and hacks to affect how their character plays to give themselves an advantage. This can be relatively minor changes, like letting the character move faster or move through walls. However, some powerful hacks completely throw off the balance of the game, letting player characters use impostor techniques like venting, killing other players, or even seeing the impostors present in the game.
Some impostors even hack the game to eliminate their kill cool-down timer, letting them wipe out an entire crew before a meeting can be called to airlock them. That’s an instant win, and what would be the fun in that? These hacks largely only affect one player and can derail a game, but the game’s other vulnerable point has bigger implications. One of Among Us’ most distinct features is its in-game chat system, which lets players talk in real time as they discuss who’s an impostor and who to throw out an airlock. But that only works if the only people in the chat are the players.
Some enterprising hackers have managed to infiltrate those chats to promote their own interests – making the game largely unplayable, as no one can concentrate on debating impostors with a dozen spam messages every minute. It was October 2020 when the biggest hack attack happened, courtesy of a mysterious figure named Eris Loris. A YouTube personality, he hacked the lobbies of individual games and started spamming their chats with promotions for his YouTube and Discord pages, along with political messages that were designed to inflame tensions.
Nothing lightens up a little game of suspicion and murder like politics, right? He soon escalated by threatening to hack the accounts of individual players who didn’t subscribe to his YouTube channel. Making it worse, his pages were full of adult content – in a game that was becoming increasingly popular with kids. So why did this master hacker derail one of the most popular games in the world?
He gave an interview on his Discord server in late October, boasting that he had only spent six hours developing the bot responsible for the hacks, and used a team of fifty volunteers to build a botnet. It was a small operation, targeting a small game – but with a massive impact. It impacted almost five million players in1.5 million games, and Eris Loris claimed that he hoped it would actually impact the United States Presidential election.
That may not have played out, because most players were probably just ready to airlock anyone who talked to them about politics midgame! So what is Among Us doing about the hacks? A day before the interviews, after the hacks had been ongoing, Inner Sloth posted an in-game message and on Twitter that they were aware of the hacks and were planning an emergency server update to make the game harder to hacks.
They warned of a risk in playing public games, and expect to fix the hacking issues when they release an updated version of the original game in the future. But for right now, players have to stay alert and protect themselves, because the game’s small team of hardworking designers was clearly not expecting to become the gaming world’s top hacking target. A planned sequel was announced for the game shortly after it started taking off, but was later cancelled because the team wants to focus on keeping the original fresh and safe.
So how are players taking advantage of the lax security in this suddenly-popular game? One of the most common ways to cheat in Among Us doesn’t even involve hacks – it takes advantage of one of the game’s own features. When players die, they become ghosts and can still help their team complete tasks in the game, but can only communicate with each other and can’t influence the main game. But that only applies if the players play fair.
A common cheat involves using public lobbies or third-party chat apps to communicate with players still in the game and spoil the identity of the impostor, allowing a friend to win and getting revenge on their killer. After all, the only person who ever truly knows the identity of the impostor is the person who just got killed by them. This is usually followed by a quick end to the game, as the impostor is outed the very next round. So how can Among Us players protect themselves and avoid game-ruining hackers? The first step is knowing how to spot a hacker from a mile away.
One of the most common hacks affects the most important part of the game – the random assignment of crewmates and impostors. The ability to guarantee that the host would be the impostor was one of the first hacks released, and it was only the start of cheats that would unbalance the game in the impostor’s favor. The host-turned-impostor could add cheat after cheat to turn what was supposed to be a game of deduction into a shooting gallery for an overpowered impostor. There’s very little strategy to many of these games, with fully-hacked impostors often wiping out entire crews before the first vote.
There is, however, one tool that players can use to get a leg up on hackers. The more games of Among Us you play, the more likely you are to be able to notice something off in a player. While many of the hacks only affect the ability of the player using them, others impact the mechanics of the game itself. Some hacks have been used to shorten voting periods, making it impossible to fully discuss suspicions before it’s time to cast a vote.
After playing enough games, you’ll know the timing of a voting period, and while you might not be able to do anything about it in that round, it’ll be easy to point out to the other players during the next chat. The same goes for if the lights aren’t working right, or if someone is moving too fast or abnormally through the game. Among Us is a game of deduction, and the addition of hackers into the game is quickly becoming another mystery for the best players to solve.
The good news is, there’s one way to get rid of an in-game hacker using cheats to ruin the game. It’s called the airlock, and it’s only one vote away. If you see someone acting suspiciously, like being oddly aware of where other players are or moving faster than a player should be able to, they’re either an impostor or a cheater – and removing them will immediately make the game a better place.
Of course, there’s no way to fix a game where a player is using a cheat that lets them identify the impostor immediately, in which case it’s best to just block any player who’s too suspicious in a game and move on. If you’re the host, it’s as simple as going to the lobby and kicking them out through your control panel. But that doesn’t fix the bigger problem- large-scale hackers targeting private games for personal gain or information. As the Among Us team works to update the game to give it the state-of-the-art security it needs, they made one major suggestion to stay safe – stick to private games. Public games put you in a pool with a collection of random players from around the world, any of whom could be a hacker.
That’s not the case when you arrange a private game, where you know everyone involved and can recruit from any site you have a presence on – even real life. Private games among friends are becoming one of the hottest trends on Twitch – a game involving two Congresswomen was even used to drive get-out-the-vote efforts before the election. And when you know everyone involved, there’s a minimal risk of any hackers causing chaos. Well, more chaos than expected when you have alien impostors running around a spaceship killing people, at least.
But that doesn’t answer one big question- why are people so interested in cheating at Among Us? Most video game hacks are seeking to achieve a specific goal, such as getting ahold of a key item without grinding for it or buying it. Some nefarious large-scale hackers have even sought to get ahold of people’s credit card information used for microtransactions. While Among Us does have microtransactions, they’re minimal – only for buying trinkets like extra suits or pets to follow you around.
Additionally, Among Us doesn’t have any rewards for winning, and it’s not a serialized game. Every round is its own game, with no advantage carrying over from game to game aside from more experience. Among Us is a PVP game, but it’s not a tournament with in-game rewards like other multiplayer games. So why are so many people hacking it for no tangible benefit? The simplest answer is that they like to create chaos.
While some large-scale hackers like Eris Loris are looking to promote themselves or simply enjoy scaring and threatening players, most Among Us hackers are gamers who want to give themselves an advantage in a game for no reason other than to get one over on their fellow players. So they turn themselves into something more powerful than the average player and revel in the anonymity as they plot to wipe out their fellow crewmates one by one.
Almost like an impostor.