The Bad Actor - Darkness Returns

Where I once ranted on Google+ every few months, my new medium is now this forum where my story continues. This time discussing the bad actors once again. With the shutdown of the TR program, my only avenue for actual results with reporting accounts was closed.

I want to believe Niantic and others when they say TRs were nothing but putting tickets on top of the list for support to process faster, but I have a list that is more than I want to admit where things would go as follows:

1) I report an account, as a regular agent including all the suggested information.

2) Ticket takes 18-36 hours for response. Account still alive.

3) Another anchor taken, left white pointing to obvious spoofing.

4) A TR is contacted, ticket open and account banned in under a few hours.

--

This became the norm, and I'm really sad that it is. I really dislike having to bother other agents just to get a chance to take a malicious actor off the board. So now I want to discuss a story, which to my knowledge as of writing this post isn't even over.

This story begins with an operation where time, money and more was spent to build a field. That field was successful and each anchor special in its own way. One morning it is discovered overnight that an anchor was killed and reclaimed. Due to timing of this, it seems eerily suspect. This agent is unknown to the area and the profile just looks suspicious. A ticket is opened and before the ticket is even closed - it strikes again. This time jumping across the states to another very special portal.

At this point - it is obvious. This account is not piloted in person and instead engaging in spoofing. The ticket closes and the account is still alive, gaining AP and destruction under its belt. We reach out and plead to those willing to listen - a few helpful hands jump in eager to help get this account taken down. They try, a valiant effort, but unfortunately the only keys to this solution lie with Niantic.

Another day passes and the account levels up, but it has left our sphere of destruction. However, a regional chat posts a screenshot of a suspect account killing anchors in another state. Behold, our same suspect account once again striking. This leads to an idea - who else knows about this account?

A worldwide chat begins discussing it - people speaking up with Intel links. The account has been in Australia, China and even South America. Other American cities speak up, this account has hit even their most secure no-signal portals! People begin piecing the path of destruction together.

The jumps are insane, jumping continent to continent with one purpose in mind - pure destruction. So we have a picture of the path traveled from just agent’s knowledge. This picture may be incomplete, but even incomplete paints a disgusting photo. It doesn’t matter the location or the color. This account is coming to **** your stuff.

I wake up on day 4 since recognizing this account, with now community contributed knowledge placing this account’s initial spoof on Sept 25 in Japan. This is insane. We are talking weeks of destruction now - not days. This reminds me of Ingress in the first two years, where accounts stayed alive for months. 

The story continues - the account and destruction remain alive as of this post time.

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This leads me to wonder - we have beta builds of Android causing false bans in a nearly instant automated fashion. This is an old scanner so excusable, but this proves to me that the technology exists to do automated banning. I however, only have knowledge of the bans that happen after destruction has occurred on the map. Has Niantic banned thousands before they’ve stepped foot on the map? Only they can answer that.

I just sit here mainly upset, what more do you need Niantic Support? What information do you have at your disposal? How can accounts jump continent to continent, ripping down portals without triggering anything automated? Yet locals can take a 1hr boat trip to an island, yet get stuck with cryptic errors preventing portal flips and long links.

You obviously have protections in place, because legitimate agents hit them! We sit there on operations that are down to the minute, restarting phones and panicking as flip cards won’t work and long links don’t go out. Are we the victim to an automated system? 

Recently we had an agent on a cruise, going port to port with his wife. For some reason they reached a port and only one of their phones worked deploying. They restarted. They waited. They glyph-hacked. They opened a ticket with support - which finally worked - both agents could now play. Was this an automated detection block?

I get so sad hearing legitimate agents blocked by systems meant to protect them - then agents that obviously go over the sand line spoofing everything seem unaffected. I want these systems to work, but are they? When grandma's and children get banned for being classified as multi accounts and legitimate agents are blocked for unknown reasons, but malicious actors run wild - I don’t know what to do. 

Thanks for listening.

The initial ticket for above story for investigation NIA: #4541363 

Comments

  • Evil Times

  • jsylvisjsylvis ✭✭✭

    Has there been any news on the replacement for the Trusted Reporter program?

    Has there been any official commentary on it beyond the (as illustrated above) demonstrably false claim that TRs just got tickets moved up in the queue?

    Is this something we're just expected to deal with now? Spoofers running rampant completely invalidating player efforts?

  • Speaking of bad actors, what are the OPR mafias going to do now that OPR has been moved and Pokemon GOers can do the work aswell?


    :D

  • This reminds me of a video by YouTuber Overlord Gaming talking about false bans.

  • @jsylvis per Krug: "The goal is to have the next version of the program up and running late next week or the week after at the latest". That was on August 21st at 6:08 pm per his League of Ingress Agents Telegram channel.

    We were then updated on September 6 that this process is "taking longer than anticipated", again per the same Telegram channel.

    I have been speedlocked driving 1.5 km just from home to church to make a daily hack. If the protections are so strong that it takes me several attempts just to make a hack, accounts spoofing across oceans to make clearly illegitimate actions is inexcusable.

  • jsylvisjsylvis ✭✭✭

    @HankThePigeon much appreciated.


    The word you're looking for is "flawed" by the way. The protections aren't really that effective - they're just erroneously disallowing legit play. Otherwise, well said.

  • If the TRs are all top secret, how would you know who to report to anyhow?

  • Niantic needs TRs to actually prioritize reports.

    In the first place, why doesnt Niantic consider all of our reports?

    Yes, It's probably due to too much reports, and the issue of mass reporting ("...mass report to have more attention to it.") I understand that it can be bothersome, but why wont they acknowledge everyone's report?

    and also 3warnings arent for flyers.

  • jsylvisjsylvis ✭✭✭

    Two had privately reached out to me though side channels.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    The other reason for TR's is to guide Niantic to reports that would otherwise go unnoticed or disregarded.

    Spoofing is a cat and mouse game. Niantic does have a lot of automated banning occurring, for bot accounts and the like. We focus on the ones where they failed, because something bad happened due to that failure. We can intuitively know when someone's spoofing, so Niantic got us to send our reports to a filter of other Agents they trust to be unbiased (to their credit, they resumed this despite proof that previous agents were NOT unbised and were abusing the system).

    Niantic doesn't need TR's to tell them how to find spoofers they can detect and automatically ban.

    Niantic needs TR's to tell them when their automated systems miss something, so that they can look deeper into that something and work out why their automated systems are insufficient. That may mean that early on in a new technique, NIA Ops fails to ban spoofs. But over time, when they see the same environmental flags on posts that people claim are spoofing over and over again, they can work out how the spoofing is being done and how to automatically detect it. Then suddenly there's a banwave of successful reports, the spoofers die down, and go back to their mountain cave to work out a new way to avoid detection...

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    To quote @RedSoloCup "The purpose of the program is to leverage the organic understanding of Ingress by Agents to supplement our anti-cheat system. The intention is to mitigate the actions of bad actors that may result in unnecessary hardships for normal Agents to revert."

  • I don’t have time to go find where AMA answers from the G+ era went, so the following will have to suffice…

    November 1, @IUENG Telegram discussion channel, https://t.me/c/1327590473/97447:

    The Trusted Reporter program simply allows the reports of certain players to be given a priority status in the review queue. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    November 14, this forum, Trusted Reporter Program Resumes:

    Trusted Reporters do not adjudicate actions, determine or make recommendations to NIA OPS about what actions should be taken on an account, do not have a method to communicate directly with NIA OPS, and cannot review any tickets other than their own.

    November 15, @IUENG Telegram discussion channel, https://t.me/c/1327590473/105013:

    A ticket submitted by a trusted reporter only gets the ticket reviewed faster. Nothing else. … The fact it may have been submitted by a TR does nothing for the outcome.

    *** *** *** ***

    We are talking about the difference between the following:

    • Scenario A: Trusted Reporter shuffles a ticket to the top of the stack. OPS picks up the ticket and goes, “eh, another day, another ticket.” OPS has no need to know who put the ticket at the top, or why or how; the ticket can be reviewed like any other. The organic understanding being provided here is somewhat indirect, an implicit insight into which incidents need to be resolved first, to potentially mitigate on-going damage that might be difficult to undo later.
    • Scenario B: Trusted Reporter shuffles a ticket to the top of the stack. OPS picks up the ticket and goes, “oh! A report by a Trusted Reporter! Let’s see how our system missed this spoofer.” This is the scenario described earlier by @Perringaiden. The organic understanding being provided here is obvious.

    “Nothing more.” “Nothing less.” “Nothing else.” “[N]othing for the outcome.” “Do not … make recommendations.” These are all commonly understood to refer to Scenario A. It is the plain, straightforward reading.

    Scenario B is one in which a TR, by virtue of attaching their name to the ticket, adds a very significant something to the ticket, a near-authoritative imprimatur that “this really is an incident of spoofing, and OPS really needs to take a closer look.” Every player, TR or not, when they point and go “spoofer” implicitly recommends and expects the account to be banned.

    I think that the original TRs understood that Scenario B is the reality. Every normal agent who submits reports day in and day out believes that Scenario B is the reality (cf. the original post in this thread). It is a belief supported by tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of tickets submitted via TRs versus directly through https://ingress.com/support. It is why so many of us originally turned to the TRs to get our spoofers dealt with. It is why so many wanted the TR program to come back.

    It is only Niantic who stubbornly claims that it is Scenario A, and that claim undergirds the persistent complaint from players, “why wasn’t this bad actor banned after being reported by a normal agent? why did I have to report it through a TR?” There is frustration at the lack of automatic bans, sure, but it pales in comparison to the frustration of pointing out something in a ticket and being ignored when we’re all allegedly being treated equally with respect to the substance of our reports.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    Anything earlier than the recent announcement is referring to an older program. The current announcement is the only thing to pay attention to, and it clearly states that they are using the TR's "organic understanding".

  • ToxoplasmollyToxoplasmolly ✭✭✭
    edited November 18

    I quoted the announcement and a remark made after the announcement. Let me fill in the earlier ellipses and quote the remark in its entirety (emphasis mine):

    A ticket submitted by a trusted reporter only gets the ticket reviewed faster. Nothing else. You should re-read the post in the community forums about the program. If NIA OPS took action, they looked and found something. The fact it may have been submitted by a TR does nothing for the outcome.

    I think that’s a fairly clear endorsement, for the newly resumed program, of what I previously described as Scenario A. Which would be consistent with how the original program was officially described. Which was at odds with reality as many of us experienced it.

  • PerringaidenPerringaiden ✭✭✭✭✭

    And that comment was in response to some sort of belief that TR's got people banned because they reported. @RedSoloCup is attempting to make clear there that people were not banned because of TR's say so, but because NIA Ops clearly found evidence.

  • What does it matter if it’s scenario A or scenario B? Why are you even making up scenarios about how things work? Why are you hyper-comparing quotes from them. They’re obviously being a bit vague, and likely with intent. How is it any of our concern how the TR program works? If it works, it works. That’s all that matters.

  • I’m less concerned with the particulars of the TRs than with why tickets by normal agents yield no results, no action. Read the intro to the original post in this thread for context. Furthermore, with the TR program having grown smaller and concerning itself with fewer incidents of spoofing than before, it would be nice to know how the average agent can get appropriate action taken. https://ingress.com/support is, sadly, not up to the task.

  • I’ve come to assume that support just doesn’t work, with exception to outlier cases. I opened a ticket once after finding I’d been arguing with a 7 year old child, in comm. This child had put together a discord server and was trying to get players to chat with him outside of comm. I actually got a message that the ticket had been elevated. I don’t recall anything else ever coming of it, but I will tell you I was surprised to get a response from support that wasn’t just the ticket being closed. So there is a human on the other side, but I think our collective experience shows that matters of cheating and spoofing fall on deaf ears. I’m assuming that reporting a problem of spoofing really only has a chance of being dealt with if reported to the TR bots. They have put a high bar on the sort of spoofing they claim they will deal with, and this leads me to assume that the lesser offenses will just have to go unchecked.

  • A graphic from Niantic showing amount of tickets submitted Vs tickets closed grouped by reason of resolution and showed by percentual values may help to mitigate all this smoke. Although, for the values to be honest, it should show number of cases reported (asuming they group tickets submitted upon the same agent just like reports upon the same portal).

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