The Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) system banned 600,000 players during the month of December, an all-time high for the initiative.
That's according to CS:GO guru Nors3, who posted on Twitter (below) that 609,373 users were banned last month. SteamDB pegs the figure at 611,492. The bulk of this number, regardless of the exact count, is reportedly from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
609,373 VAC bans on December, biggest number in a month ever. There were like 5 VAC waves in the month.— Nors3 (@Nors3) January 6, 2019
Vast majority of this VAC bans are for CS:GO, it's more difficult to know the origin of the Game bans. pic.twitter.com/BhDTOrITkg
December saw several waves of players being kicked in increasing numbers, suggesting that there have been incremental improvements to the VAC system.
This will no doubt also be tied to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive going free-to-play in December, a shift which saw 20m people play the 2012 tactical online shooter for the month.
Ahead of going free-to-play, Valve's shooter returned to the SuperData digital revenue Top Ten on PC. No doubt we'll be seeing the game in this chart much more going forward with the change in business model.
Oh, and if you were curious how Valve was detecting cheating in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the firm said last year that it has, um, 1,700 CPUs tasked with this matter, with a total of 3,400 at its disposal. The rise in bans might indicate that the PC giant has started employing more of this resource. The firm is also looking into machine learning as a means of halting cheating, something that Blizzard is also investigating with the long-term aim of being able to spot "toxic gameplay" in titles like Overwatch as well as toxic language.
Microsoft is another firm turning to this AI tech to stop cheating, per a patent filing from May 2017.