Why can't Niantic stop the spoofing?



  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @LuoboTiX The most common case known by me is something entirely different from what you're describing. The majority of the spoofing that I've had to deal with involves a low-level throwaway account showing up at a location that's difficult to access and taking down a large field or a durable portal that is holding strategic links. The last one that I had to deal with involved a level 5 agent (or so, I don't remember the exact details) taking out a couple of portals that require satellite phone access and require a difficult mountain hike.

    When I spotted the spoof I gathered my information and used the Trusted Reporter program (when it still existed, this was last year). The account was terminated and the portals were restored. Unfortunately the spoofer still won because the blocking links that they'd taken down got removed and couldn't be put back up because the restoration process takes days and the lane was blocked in the interim.

  • sophielabsophielab ✭✭✭

    We're dealing with someone who has a main account and a ton of spoofing accounts. The spoofing accounts get banned but new ones are continously created. The person is obsessed with winning. Large portions of NH and just over the border in MA are unplayable. He has the support of another agent as well so it's not as though he's been shunned completely. There are two very sad agents who think the "winning" at any cost is the way to play so there is no competitive play in that cell.

  • LuoboTiXLuoboTiX ✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2021

    In my area there are not many players and the low-level throwaway account will be identified, reported to Niantic Support and exposed by me to public. Thus even if they are not banned they got warnings and every player in my area knows that it's a spoofer which makes it feel boring and given up with that account. Eventually those spoofers turn to more advanced and more effort-taking solutions as I described and pretend to be "hardcore players" with spoofing sub-accounts. I have to say that spoofers here in Shanghai probably is using the most cutting-edge spoofing technologies in terms of Ingress on global scale.

    In 2020, Trusted Reporter program worked well (comparing with standard reporting channel) though it can deal with only limited case. In 2021, it becomes not working not to mention "well". At least not working as promised and as previously and as people expected because there are no more (direct) communication between reporters and TR program operators and far less escalation of my reporting cases to NIA OPS and zero to none portal/links restoration. Besides, spoofers that would be banned permanently by TR in 2020 would get their relaunch easily after 30-day ban as a decision in 2021, as I mentioned in the first comment in this post.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2021

    I don't even know how to identify the person responsible for a throwaway account. They probably spoof-leveled either in a high-traffic area or quietly, then showed up at a key anchor, did their damage, and discarded the account. I don't know if any of them are still around but the (super evil) sites offering to neutralize any portal in the world for a few bucks. I know Niantic was going after those sites really hard, and I hope they succeeded.

    The Trusted Reporter program did pretty well for cleaning up the damage done by spoofers but it was a repair-only process... it didn't stop spoofing.

    (Edit because I forget that Niantic won't let us use that common four-letter word for neutralizing a portal.)

    Post edited by Hosette on
  • Exactly. If you look at this area in Southern New Hampshire, the whole mess is built and maintained by spoof accounts. Take out any component part, within a half hour a spoof account shows up and replaces the RES fields. Regardless of the faction, you can't do much of anything in Nashua (the second largest city in northern New England) because it is constantly under a multi-layered field. Similarly, the area east of Nashua, all the way to I-95, is consistently covered by the same fields, which are miraculously repaired or replaced within minutes of bringing them down. Both ENL and RES in the area recognize how toxic this is to any kind of game play, and we have collaborated to report obvious spoofing incidents.

    No matter how obvious, no matter how well documented, we get back from Niantic is this canned response:

    Thank you for reporting this issue. We’re writing to confirm that we have carefully reviewed your report and have taken action where appropriate. Note that not all outcomes may result in a ban. Based on our policy, we may warn a person, place restrictions on their account, or take other appropriate actions.

    For privacy reasons, we cannot discuss actions taken against other agents; therefore, you will not receive any additional updates on this report. If you need to report a new incident, please submit a new report from the Help Center:

  • LuoboTiXLuoboTiX ✭✭✭✭

    Yes. Canned response with rare actions on spoofers. No communication between reporters and NIA OPS. Reporters' efforts are not highly valued and appreciated.

    That's the problem. The attitudes. Not technical difficulties.

  • SSSputnikSSSputnik ✭✭✭✭✭

    About the only easy spoofing detection would be to stop accounts flying above the speed of a commercial airliner. That's around 1000km/hr to be safe. I don't see why 1000km/hr+ travel can't be banned as a blanket rule. (OK if you have access to an SR-71 or similar, you might be an exception).

    Note that a lot of spoofers ARE banned in under 1-2 hours.

    And yes, experienced players can sniff out suspicious actions really well. And... I don't see why Deep Learning can't be used. I have yet to see a solid argument why it wouldn't.

    Many players use non cell data for "hard" portals. (Everything from WiFi to Sat and even packet data devices, though unsure if these work with Prime now). GPS is the only constant, and GPS data that Niantic see's is sent from the end users device, it can't be trusted.

    Also, you can fake cell towers.

  • sophielabsophielab ✭✭✭
    edited April 2021

    @Hosette We all know who it is. It started with the agent's "son's account". The rest that have been spun up will mirror that game play and obviously assist the main account.

    If the point of trying fielding under fields is a bandaid solution to stopping spoofing, it may work in cases with a very large field and hard anchors but it doesn't really provide a solution here. Look under those fields above on intel, there are very few spots to play even with that mechanic.

    Can we please get reports taken a little bit more seriously?

  • @sophielab - you are exactly right.

    We have the same spoofer, sitting on the same couch, playing the same three accounts, in the same territory, for at least the last two years. Every regular player between Boston and Manchester NH is very familiar with what is happening, but Niantic won't do anything to stop it. Tell me, how does a spoof account, that has never physically appeared anywhere, rack up 17,879,120 AP and reach Level 14? Come on, Niantic, it's time to take this seriously, and work with a united XFAC community to rid this game of blatant, constant spoofing.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MeekayCat Here's what I suspect is going on, based on drips of information that have come out over the years plus some of my own and my friends' observations. Bear in mind that a lot of what I'm writing is speculation, and I'm sure it's wrong in many details but I wouldn't be surprised if the principles were close to reality. My guesses:

    I have a memory, and I'm not sure where it's from, that Niantic calculates or can calculate a spoof probability score for every action in the game and many actions have some reason to score at least a little bit above 0%. I can make a lot of educated guesses about what goes into that score but I really don't know so let's just call it SecretRecipe. SecretRecipe looks at a player's action(s) and calculates a score between, well, let's pretend 0% to 100%.

    Maybe there's some fairly low threshold below which Niantic is certain that the actions are legit... I'll name that threshold TotallyNormal. I'd imagine that nearly allactions in the game fall below the TotallyNormal threshold. Let's further posit a high threshold beyond which Niantic is certain that the account is spoofing, which I'll name DieCheaterDie. SecretRecipe scores an action as being above DieCheaterDie then maybe Niantic automatically suspends the account. Maybe there's a third score between them, SuperFishy, at which point the action is blocked but the account remains active. I or my friends have witnessed Niantic's spoof system doing things that resemble both SuperFishy and DieCneaterDie. I watched a spoofer's account get suspended within 1-2 minutes of a spoof when they were taking down a BAF that I'd just thrown... they killed a couple of portals then actions stopped and the profile wasn't viewable. I've had friends at anchors who were prevented from making long links but they could drop a key to someone else and that person could link, and there have been a couple of very visible stories in the past where people got to a remote portal to move shards and were prevented from doing so.


    • 0 to TotallyNormal: Not spoofing.
    • TotallyNormal to SuperFishy: ???
    • SuperFishy to DieCheaterDie: Niantic restricts the account's ability to take certain actions.
    • Above DieCheaterDie: The account is suspended/terminated.

    Let's talk about that other space, the one where SecretRecipe scores an action between TotallyNormal and SuperFIshy? I think this is where player-generated spoof reports come in. What I believe happens when Niantic gets a spoof report is that they use the report as a trigger to look more closely at their internal data. If it's in that range between TotallyNormal and SuperFishy they do... something... to dive deeper. Maybe they look at history. Maybe they look at internal components of the score. Maybe they throw a dart at a dartboard. I don't know. (That last one is a joke, I think.)

    The key thing is that a spoof report serves as a trigger for Niantic to examine their internal data, and then they decide the outcome based on those data. I believe Niantic has actually said this at some point, though I can't remember where... possibly a meetup with Krug? It does mean that the outcome of a spoof report would depend both on the reliability of SecretRecipe in identifying spoofing and in the spoofer's ability to evade SecretRecipe. It's that whole cat-and-mouse game again. It also makes sense that Niantic won't take actions against a player based purely on player reporting, and that's for pretty obvious reasons.

    This got pretty long, so here's a TL;dr: I believe player spoof reports serve as triggers for Niantic to examine their own internal spoof data and then they decide the outcome based on those internal data. I could be wrong about this, but I have several tidbits in my memory that make me believe this is a true statement, or that it was at one time.

  • SSSputnikSSSputnik ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 2021

    Yeah I've had the unable to throw link myself with a group of people, had to drop keys, someone would get a link in, then they would be unable to throw further links, so they had to drop keys to someone else and so on. Luckily we had enough agents with us to complete the fields. (VRLA links).

    Strangely this does not always happen.

  • @Hosette Thank you for the description.

    The algorithm you describe is an interesting indicator of spoofing, and these indicators are efficient ways to make a first cut at identifying a difficult to observe phenomenon.

    This algorithm does not define spoofing, and there is error inherent in these tests. That's okay, as it effectively reduces the time and effort required to identify spoofers. Niantic needs to understand spoofers who don't trigger the indicators are still spoofers, and if spoofers are identified with other evidence must not be ignored.

    In this case, the same spoofer, with multiple accounts, has plagued southern New Hampshire for the past two years. Even if individual actions don't trip the Super Fishy indicators, the constant actions over extended time needs to trigger a response.

  • In fact, attitudes depend on the cost. Of course Niantic can stop spoofing completely but at very high cost that is not affordable. For me I just don't understand why Ingress team does not set up a "Trusted Reporting Player" architecture that highlight and help the professional player reporting spoofers, which can be done at a low cost but very effective.

  • GoblinGranateGoblinGranate ✭✭✭✭✭

    Players have proven themselves to be untrustable. Half of the abuse comes from this very same players.

    This is not EVE Online, Niantic is just being extremely lazy on this matter. The cost is not affordable? Ok, just say so and the fight is over.

  • Maybe @Niantic can have another stupid week of spoofer support gaming and whatever faction "wins" then @Niantic can allow that faction to spoof for the next month. @Niantic doesn't care, in case anyone wants to know.

  • harkonnnenharkonnnen ✭✭✭✭

    It all comes down to money....

    Ingress - Spoofing cost Niantic a limited amount of money in the form of people getting pissed off and un-sub their subscription, mostly its data they lose which isn't as unique or valuable as it was before. For these reasons the money Niantic is willing to expend to fight Spoofing is limited

    Pogo - Niantic doesn't really want ban spoofing since those account still spend plenty of money on the game, however on occasion they will make a show of it doing ban waves when it gets to obvious.

    HP - I idea, 2 games is more than I can handle but seemed like alot of micro transactions game

    Maybe one day Niantic will test some new detection updates on Ingress atleast but until than.................

    While its usually just me and my dog out and about s..t linking and off on adventures I don't understand the point especially Ingress, spoofing is a stank that never goes away as far as the majority of the community is concern I think. Oh I raged when we had continuous BAF's over half the state when I was trying to level up but never even consider crossing that line

  • mortuusmortuus ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    ppl invest alot of time and money to go certain portals, it cant be fun with all hardwork someone sitting home destroying something u spent hours go to and setup this is what causes many legit players to just stop playing as reporting accounts dont work its way to easy just create new and continue to spoof and destroy for legit players.. cheaters are the worst in any videogame.

    there is no easy solution for this i dontknow, perhaps one thing could be some new verification method or something tied to the phone surely not easly solution...

    Be one step ahead the cheaters is uphill battle before it started.

  • GrogyanGrogyan ✭✭✭✭✭

    Brian Rose has been answering a lot of questions in the New Zealand First Saturday zoom chat about this and a lot more of other things.

    In short a lot of behind the scenes stuff is happening that may come to the forefront at some point

  • ToxoplasmollyToxoplasmolly ✭✭✭✭✭

    Do you have details? Dates for when things will be released?

    Otherwise, there's no information here — just the same thing that Niantic always says: "We're working on things. We'll tell you Soon™️."

  • GrogyanGrogyan ✭✭✭✭✭

    It is more like, how much portal Scanning we are doing now, and the quality of the scans that is essentially iwhat is holding things back.

  • HosetteHosette ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    @Grogyan It's not at all clear to me how portal scanning could relate to spoofing. Durable portals often get very few visitors, and I can guarantee people aren't climbing mountains just to scan the portals. Can you clarify?

    It's never been at all clear to me why I should scan portals. It's hard for me to imagine it contributing to gameplay in any interesting or meaningful way-- it just feels like it would be UI window dressing.

  • kiloecholimakiloecholima ✭✭✭✭✭

    Not too long ago, I hiked up a mountain to throw durable blockers. I took selfies just in case I was accused of anything and also scanned the portals. I figured it would add another layer of protection against any false reports as NIA will see from my scans that I was clearly there.

  • GrogyanGrogyan ✭✭✭✭✭

    Yep, that is something that asked about.

    To be fair his answer was kinda satisfactory on the matter.

    In that the filling out of the AR space with good scans is necessary before tackling 2FLA with the technology.

    Which is problematic when pogo players and some Ingress players are doing garbage scans.

    However, it isn't even that simple, as there are players with devices that don't support the Google AR core.

    Good to know that there is movement in tackling 2FLA, when it happens, IMO depends on how the devs can make the results of Portal Scanning rich enough of an experience to make it a thing that players will do a few times a day, as normal as a thing as just hacking a portal.

    The takeaway is, the more quality Scanning by lots of players, the quicker development into 2FLA can occur.

    I do think there should be enough photogrammetry data by now, that at least "seed" wayspots have tangible gameplay for players to actually see the fruits of scans.

  • GrogyanGrogyan ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    This is a good idea to be a normal thing players should be doing, especially for tactical portals.

    Post edited by Grogyan on
  • ToxoplasmollyToxoplasmolly ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2021

    If his answer was "satisfactory" on the matter, your comment utterly failed to convey that.

    2FLA is what… 2 factor location authentication? This makes no sense. There is no authentication going on, let alone two factors worth of authentication.

    In traditional 2FA, you know the correct answers to two questions, often a password and some numeric code, and the good guy has to produce those two correct answers. It's "two factors" because, in colloquial terms, it's (1) information the good guy knows, i.e., the password, and (2) something the good guy physically has, i.e., the device by which the code is sent or generated. The bad guy has to steal two different things by entirely different means; stealing a password is very different from stealing, say, a hardware dongle.

    With regards to deciding where someone is, you have no idea what the correct answer is. The good guy and bad guy are both trying to convince you that what they say is The Truth by sending you "data." And at the point where the bad guy can just make up GPS coordinates to send you, you have to assume that they can just make up portal scans, too. Is Niantic verifying or convincing themselves that the scans they're receiving aren't being spoofed?

    Also, when and where does Niantic think they're going to get enough scans for those hard-to-reach portals whose spoofing really matters? They're certainly not going to be getting them if they don't actually communicate and make a convincing need for those scans. 🤦‍♂️

  • Cheating. That's what it all comes down to. People will run multiple accounts and use multiple devices, fake a location through software and find any number of ways to get around the rules. Niantic knows this costs them players and as a consequence, potential revenue. They have a vested interest in stopping spoofing and I tried a few different methods myself with complete failure. (not that I really tried I was just curious) I can tell that there is a ton of data going between my phone and a server and at times, if I only have a 3g connection, I have to wait quite a long time to even log in. This tells me that there is an underlying complexity that doesn't lend itself easily to responding simply to creating anti-spoofing techniques. Without knowing the full code of the game itself, I don't feel it's really fair to say that Niantic isn't doing anything or to believe that there is something simple that they could be doing to stop it completely.

    I also feel that I we are going to make a deal about this, we should be ready to provide some suggestions or ideas. Maybe a distance limiter linked with some kind of timer. If an action(s) is done on a portal, doing another action on other portal a mile away a min later would be blocked. While it doesn't really prevent spoofing, it might cut down on the reason people do it in the first place by making no gains for spoofed accounts. I feel that perhaps that might be the best way to look at it. Instead of trying to actually prevent spoofing, simply make it so it doesn't matter and there is no longer any gain in it. Then spoofing would ultimately have no effect on the game and there would be no point in it.

    That's just my two cents. (and I hear there's a coin shortage too lol) :D

  • I know applications that simulates traveling using data from google maps and simulates precision errors when you are stopped. is unbeatable and companies which develops that applications is working to keep indetectable by AR games, day by day..

    so, meanwhile they are trying to avoid spoofing.. i like what you said.. try to spoofer action doesnt matter, at least not so much. i dont know any idea i currently have in mind what community wont reject.

  • ZennZenn ✭✭✭✭

    If a spoofer is sophisticated enough it is impossible to stop them due to client side reporting... There is no way around this.

  • Compare this map with the one posted in this thread on April 26. It is almost identical.

    If your paradigm for catching spoofers is to find accounts speeding along at impossible rates of speed, you will never catch this New Hampshire spoofer.

    You have at least four accounts spoofing the region from one couch in Newton NH: NNHpdiscorrupt, hbomb91, 4nticipation, Icomeinpiecenot. So, if you take out a portal in Litchfield NH, one of these accounts will pop up and take it back within a half hour. If another ENL player simultaneously takes out a portal in Newton, NH (a 50 minute drive from Litchfield), no problem: a different account is there to take it back.

    These accounts never move at unusual speeds once they appear on the map, and they are strategic when they appear. If you capture a portal anywhere in this region, they will wait until you interact with the next portal to take back the first portal. We have parked a second agent at a portal and documented this behavior, taken screen shots and photographed the area to document the lack of an actual player at the time of capture, and Niantic responds only with the usual canned response, "We’re writing to confirm that we have carefully reviewed your report and have taken action where appropriate."

    ENL and RES players in the area are happy to work together to document the spoofing and assist Niantic in purging the game from this scourge. Niantic knows this, yet they do nothing. When you consider that one spoofer is making a large area of southern New Hampshire unplayable for others (both ENL and RES), that the spoofing covers Nashua (the second largest city in northern New England), and this effectively removes a large chunk of territory for new agents and potential C.O.R.E. subscribers due to the compulsive fielding of one spoofer, one has to wonder why Niantic has allowed this to continue every hour, every day, for several years.

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