Ingress and “Cheating” (pt. 2, if you will)

My last post on this subject was a little bit of a whinge, this one will not be.

I’ve had a teeny, tiny epiphany on this subject, but it puts me firmly in the naughty camp. See, it goes a little something like this…

Mobile device AGPS is shit. No ifs, buts or maybes, it’s straight up useless. Some devices do a far better job than others; Samsung have burned their bridges in my book after the Galaxy Nexus and the damp string they used for the GPS, but I know a lot of my Croydon ENL brethren (and sisteren) swear by current gen Samsung, and the Sony I’m currently rocking for my main device is pretty good once it gets a lock, and it’s pretty good at getting a lock, but the fact remains that for accurate GPS you really can’t rely on AGPS.

So what to do? For car-based navigation I’ve used CoPilot Live since my first Android device, and when I was cursed with owning the Galaxy Nexus I picked up a no-name Chinese Bluetooth GPS unit from eBay. It wasn’t expensive (even back then), and it’s SiRFSTAR III based (so it’s dead quick to pick up a lock, even when moving), and I get sub-10M accuracy off it almost all the time…

…and it would be nice to be able to use it for Ingressing. Only problem being you can’t use mock location when Ingressing, and the (many) Bluetooth GPS softwares for Android rely on having mock location enabled.

In my investigations of the “black hat” Ingress environment, I came across a great forum post that explained how to get mock locations without using Android’s Mock Location feature (not difficult, as it turns out, but you have to have a rooted device to do it). The post actually demonstrated this in reference to using fake GPS positioning (for Ingress ghosting), but the technique works equally well with Bluetooth GPS provisioning software, so I can have a second device running with accurate location thanks to black hatting. And in doing that, I’m flat-out breaking the Ingress ToS (twice, in actual fact).

Ingress “cheating” – a grey area at the very least…

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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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