After the recent spread of not one, but two new hacks in GTA Online, one of which can outright rob players of in-game cash, news of a new ban wave is welcome. Even if it isn't the great salvation that will make freeroam in public lobbies safe once more, hacker numbers might drop for a while.
That said, don't expect them to disappear entirely or for good. Past ban waves have proven that they only offer a brief respite before the bastards return and that not all of them get caught up in it. Usually, a week or so passes while the coast is clear, after which things are back to normal.
The typical indicator that a ban wave is ongoing is the sudden spike in topics and threads opened on various GTA Online community sites about being "wrongfully" banned by Rockstar. These posts almost drown out those which proclaim a period of joyous holiday in the name of the blessed ban wave.
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The current ban wave is likely Rockstar's first response to the recent spread of a particularly malicious hack which effectively siphons cash away from unsuspecting victims, with session jumping being the only way to halt the process after it has begun. However, even so you could stand to lose millions due to how quickly the hack operates.
By fooling the game into thinking the victim has killed the hacker while the latter was in passive mode, the victim is forced to pay the hacker's hospital bills, which have been tweaked to cost millions of in-game cash. The hack hits the same victim on a loop until they have no money left what-so-ever.
Considering the fact that through Shark Cards, players can use real money to pay for in-game currency, this hack amounts to something pretty close to actual theft. Some jackass with a mod menu can set you back $100, or more, depending on how liberally you splurge on microtransactions.
While spawning random props and crashing lobbies is a childish way to cause a nuisance to legitimate players, this time things have elevated. The only other time hackers have managed something like this was during the whole insurance fraud hack debacle, where a similar method was used to siphon off cash from players.
Rockstar's temporary - and permanent, after no other fix worked - solution to that particular issue was to disable the affected systems entirely. Since then, GTA Online no longer has any kind of insurance system in place, and the bad sport lobbies aren't a thing anymore either.
However, right now, Rockstar is in a tougher situation since the current hack exploits the passive mode system, which was implemented with the goal of providing players disinterested in PvP a way to enjoy the game without having to worry about every other jackass in a Hydra dogging them and spawn killing them repeatedly.
The system is far too important to be just taken offline permanently, however a temporary cessation would be a good way to curb the use of the hack for as long as the team needs to work out a fix. Alternatively, they could just alter passive mode so that getting killed while in it doesn't charge the killer for the hospital bills.
In fact, you can expect either of these to happen soon as Rockstar's response to the hack. This ban wave is undoubtedly an outrider of sorts, prefacing the main campaign to make the game safe to play again. Before such measures are put in place, the bans help to thin the hackers' numbers.
The nature of the ban waves is quite curious, however. It isn't clear how exactly they are organized or what goes on in the background since these aren't the only time hackers get the hammer. Cheaters are being banned all the time, and there are plenty of posts by people claiming to have been falsely banned in the interim to prove that the anti-cheat is active 24/7.
Add to this a recent update to the auto-detection system which can ban hackers mid-session as well, and we're even more interested to know what's up with these ban waves. Our guess would be that the scheduled ban waves occur when a large number of actual human operators are tasked with cleaning the game up, bolstering the fallible auto-detection system in the game for a while until things are switched back to auto-pilot.
There really is no other explanation here. If the significantly larger ban numbers are thanks to upgraded scripts and coding, why would Rockstar devolve their system again in a few days? While it is plausible that each ban wave is caused by an anti-cheat upgrade, it is, unfortunately, unlikely too.
In a rather tragic twist, this particular ban wave might lash back at the legitimate players as well. While getting cash dropped on you isn't going to get you banned (especially if you spend it all), hackers have been screwing with things that could get their victims implicated. Altering your rank is primary among these.
As this hack we're dealing with is particularly malicious and drains your cash, we would advise against hopping back in public PC, PS3 or Xbox 360 lobbies just yet on account of the ban wave. Even if Rockstar booted half of GTA Online's hacker population, the other half are still at large - and is losing all your cash really worth it?
This passive mode exploit might end up being the catalyst of some long-desired changes to the system. Passive mode is one of the most hotly debated aspects of GTA Online, and one that most players agree needs a workover.
Currently, the system can be easily abused by griefers to continually spawn kill their targets while staying out of harm's way. It is more a source of annoyance rather than safety at this point, and the more recent updates like Further Adventures in Finance and Felony have disabled it altogether during some of the activities introduced.
An altered system would likely impose a number of cooldowns, preventing griefers from jumping in and out of passive mode whenever they feel the need to escape the righteous wrath of other players. In light of the current hack, taking out the whole hospital bill thing would be a great change too.
Ban waves usually come in smaller waves themselves, and we're expecting there to be a few more over the course of the next day or two before whatever mythic factor it is that induces these subsides. When the waves clear out, we could all enjoy a safer GTA Online, but again, until there is a fix, we should all steer clear of public lobbies on the affected systems.
In the meantime, you can always play offline or stick to private lobbies or sessions that are overseen by large, organized crews who ensure safe play. When Rockstar rolls out a permanent fix, we'll be sure to cover it as it happens.