Ingress and Cheating

I play Ingress, the augmented reality game for Android devices by Niantic Labs (an offshoot from Google, if you didn’t know). I’m in the Enlightened (“the frogs”) fighting against the Resistance (“the smurfs”) and I know full well that some folks cheat on both factions.

How do I know?

I have tested how to do it, that’s how (and not on my main account, I hasten to add). NIA admittedly do their damnedest to weed out cheaters; they have coded the Scanner to prevent location spoofing (but it’s not perfect and it’s still entirely possible to location spoof with relative ease on rooted devices), they sign the Scanner to prevent the use of hacked scanners (but there are at least three “hacked scanners” that I have knowledge of, and at least one of them is an out and out “bot” that will follow a path anywhere in the world, hacking and smashing while the device itself is on your desk or bedside table) and they datamine the game logs to look for suspicious activity (including but not limited to running old clients, agents that are operating too quickly and agents that are moving too quickly) and they warn/ban when they suspect it. But when a really big event (the recent Interitus event in London) is blighted by accusations of an “enemy” mega-field being created by the use of ghost accounts, it ruins the game for those of us that are playing legit.

A friend of mine got his account insta-banned for running Broot (a hacked client that allows the player to turn off some of the in-game features that slow down agent actions – mostly graphical things) on a very old handset, hence he was running Broot in the first place (the Broot scanner also happens to be significantly “lighter” and runs relatively well on older Android devices). I’d bet money that >90% of Ingress players are actively breaking the terms of the game by operating multiple accounts, because trying to farm Portal Keys on a single account is currently a right pain in the arse and if you don’t have a friend/partner/SO that plays you really have no choice but to run two accounts on two devices.

The big problem is how easy it is to (a) get away with it in the first place and (b) get straight back into the game even if you are banned: just create a “throwaway” email account, install the official Scanner apk and change the account on your Android device for the few minutes it takes to sign up again as a new agent (that’s how I fixed my friend’s device ’cause he’s new to Android). As long as the sanctions for cheating are so limited, and getting back into the game is so ridiculously easy, cheaters will cheat.

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Author: PantsManUK

Twenty-plus years in IT and/or gaming in one form or another. My proudest moment was getting through Jet Pac on the Sinclair Spectrum 48K ;-)

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