Find Out Why Helium Hasn’t Stopped Those Rotten Cheaters!



Let’s go through sev­en aspects of why stop­ping cheat­ing, also known as gam­ing, on the Heli­um Net­work is so damn dif­fi­cult. I know, I know, you just want an answer or *some­one* to do *some­thing*.

First, and let me be very clear: A group of tal­ent­ed peo­ple, both vol­un­teer and paid, are work­ing on com­bat­ting cheat­ing and they’ve made tremen­dous progress from the ear­ly days. They acknowl­edge they ain’t where they want to be in terms of con­trol­ling it, but con­trary to pop­u­lar belief, a fair amount of work has been and will con­tin­ue to be done on keep­ing cheat­ing to min­i­mum levels.

Still, when you’re try­ing to secure an enor­mous decen­tral­ized per­mis­sion­less net­work against sophis­ti­cat­ed and moti­vat­ed crim­i­nals, it ain’t an easy game. Look at this way: Mod­ern soci­ety has­n’t suc­ceed­ed in stop­ping crime; why should it be any dif­fer­ent in a sub­sec­tion of soci­ety, par­tic­u­lar­ly one that’s very new?

Let’s go through the hur­dles to stop­ping gam­ing along with what you can and can’t do, what is being done, then talk about where your time as a mem­ber of the Heli­um net­work is prob­a­bly most prof­itably spent.

First, RF is weird. RF stands for Radio Fre­quen­cy, and the “RF is weird” say­ing is com­mon in radio expert cir­cles. Using RF to deter­mine a Hotspot’s loca­tion is one of the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of Heli­um. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the way Heli­um is using RF to prove loca­tion is not con­ducive to know­ing where any giv­en Hotspot is if some­one is try­ing to cheat.

In a lab, RF is pre­dictable; radio waves trav­el at the speed of light and take “X” amount of time to get from a known dis­tance between point A and point B. In the real world, they bounce of build­ings and trees and planes, get stopped by moun­tains, refract off of water, and behave in ways that, while gen­er­al­ly pre­dictable, are not indi­vid­u­al­ly predictable.

Don’t believe me? Talk to any HAM radio enthu­si­ast who’ll tell you that one day you’ll talk to South Africa and the next you can’t get out of your city. With the fun­da­men­tal method of “prov­ing” whether or not a real world sig­nal is legit­i­mate so fuzzy, it’s dif­fi­cult to apply a clean set of rules that give a “cheat/no cheat” label to any giv­en sig­nal set.

Sec­ond, GPS is incred­i­bly easy to spoof. Poke­mon proved that, and Heli­um is no exception.

That means you can set up a bunch of hotspots in a base­ment in Boston and it’ll take a few hours on the inter­net and about $40 to make them seem like they’re set up in a beau­ti­ful lay­out in the moun­tains halfway around the world. Yes, sophis­ti­cat­ed anti-gam­ing algo­rithms can beat that, but not every time, and…

Third, no one wants to see a “good” hotspot get roped in with a bunch of bad ones. Sure, the PoC SWG (Proof of Cov­er­age Secu­ri­ty Work­ing Group, the group gen­er­al­ly in charge of anti-gam­ing) could cast a fine net that caught, say, 90% of the cheat­ing hotspots, but if it also acci­den­tal­ly scoops up 10% of the good hotspots, that’s not acceptable. 

That brings us to the fourth rea­son cheat­ing is hard to stop: The net­work is decen­tral­ized. The whole point is that the net­work itself is the pro­tec­tion; ide­al­ly there isn’t a need for an “anti-cheat­ing police force” the way we have in tra­di­tion­al gov­ern­ment. I know you want some­one to go kick in the doors of Bent Pas­tel Por­poise (which has been on the denylist over 50 times) and con­fis­cate all those stolen HNT, but…who does that? The Heli­um Police Force? Do they fly to Chi­na and lodge a protest? What if they’re wrong, and BPP is actu­al­ly a Xiangyang farmer just mak­ing a few extra HNT on the side?

This brings up a few impor­tant points: What if there WAS an enti­ty in the Heli­um ecosys­tem that could take HNT out of your wal­let if they thought you’d stolen it? That’s anath­e­ma to all of cryp­to; what’s in your wal­let is incon­tro­vert­ibly yours. Who should judge that? If it’s just a pig-pile method of vot­ing, what stops a few whales using their vot­ing pow­er to say that your HNT isn’t yours? What hap­pens to the recov­ered HNT?

It gets tricky fast, and the only rea­son­able way to judge right now is to err on the side of peo­ple who are *prob­a­bly* doing the right thing, even though that prob­a­bil­i­ty pro­vides cov­er for an awful lot of cheaters.

Let’s get into some bet­ter news, now that you see a few of the (very dif­fi­cult) obsta­cles to stop­ping all cheating. 

Fifth, there actu­al­ly IS a group tak­ing on the mon­u­men­tal task of pro­gram­ming the net­work itself, and not just you or your bud­dy or any self-appoint­ed Heli­um police, to make cheat­ing not worth it. They work under the acronym PoC­SWG, men­tioned above. In gen­er­al they remain out of the lime­light, although they will bring forth cas­es against appar­ent insti­tu­tion­al gam­ing to be heard by the MCC (Man­u­fac­tur­er’s Com­pli­ance Com­mit­tee). Full dis­clo­sure (and no sur­prise to those of you who’ve watched the MCC calls), I sit on the MCC as a Com­mu­ni­ty rep­re­sen­ta­tive (vs an RF or secu­ri­ty expert, which I’m not). If you’d like to learn more about the MCC, their char­ter is here.

The PoC­SWG is made up of experts from the world of RF, secu­ri­ty, machine learn­ing, pro­gram­ming, math­e­mat­ics, AI, and man­u­fac­tur­ing. If you’d like to join, jump into Heli­um’s Dis­cord and look for the #poc-dis­cus­sion chan­nel. Read through the past week’s posts and see if you think you can help. If you do, apply here. The PoC­SWG works togeth­er to devel­op ways of com­bat­ting gam­ing on the Heli­um net­work, and while they’re not per­fect, so far they’ve done pret­ty well. That brings us to the next thing:

Sixth, quite a few gamers actu­al­ly HAVE been stopped. Now, hav­ing friends and clients who have point­ed me to “cheat­ing” hotspots that seem to pret­ty clear­ly cheat­ing and still get­ting away with it, I know that not all cheaters have been stopped; not by a long shot. 

I asked Dave Akers over at Heli­um Ana­lyt­ics to run the stats on how many gam­ing hotspots there are and how much they’ve earned. He sug­gest­ed we use the denylist as our stan­dard for “gam­ing hotspots”, so this does­n’t include all cheaters, but it prob­a­bly gets most of ’em.

Here’s a quick table for ya. Gamed Rewards are the rewards that went to Hotspots on the denylist. Hotspot Rewards rep­re­sent HNT that went to Hotspots NOT on the denylist. Denylist Reward Por­tion is that per­cent­age of Hotspot rewards that went to the denylist. Net­work Rewards is all HNT that was emit­ted to all actors; Hotspots, Val­ida­tors, and the HST to investors.

MonthDenylist HNTHotspot RewardsDenylist Reward Por­tionNet­work RewardsTotal Per­cent­age Gamed
Feb195,031 1,411,071 13.82,315,8468.4
Mar264,072 1,547,979 17.12,530,27110.4
Apr267,482 1,506,460 17.82,467,37010.8
May244,909 1,473,595 16.62,433,37110.1
Jun258,950 1,488,966 17.42,476,18010.5
Jul241,783 1,364,721 17.72,259,97510.7
Aug257,890 1,533,346 16.82,669,0609.7
Sep179,931 1,479,229 12.22,421,6507.4
Oct68,760 1,120,284 6.11,864,7363.7
TOTAL1,978,809 12,925,651 15.321,438,4599.2


First, about 10% of all Hotspots (just over 100k) are cur­rent­ly on the denylist and not allowed to earn by either receiv­ing chal­lenges or wit­ness­ing a beacon.

Sec­ond, in 2022 so far (Oct 23rd), about 2 mil­lion HNT was earned by Hotspots on the denylist. Yes, that’s a prob­lem. No one is deny­ing gam­ing isn’t an impor­tant issue. While it is a lot, it’s only about 10% of all HNT emit­ted dur­ing that period.

Now, those of you who’ve been stri­dent about let­ting me know that gam­ing is a much big­ger prob­lem and may com­prise up to 50% of the network…show me the stats. As far as I know, there isn’t a way to see not-yet-caught cheater rewards. If there were, we’d prob­a­bly be able to stop them.

I’m going to GUESS that less than anoth­er 10% is going to as-yet-uncaught cheaters, which would mean, again, as a GUESS, less than 20% of all rewards are going to cheaters. Yes, that’s a prob­lem. No, it’s not 50%. Yes, peo­ple are work­ing super hard on this to bring it down to accept­able levels. 

Com­pared to esti­mates on glob­al crime as a per­cent­age of GDP, we’re behind, by a lot. Still, it’s rea­son­able to believe that the PoC­SWG and oth­er enti­ties will bring cheat­ing down to more nor­mal lev­els with­in a year. 

The sev­enth aspect is what YOU can do to help stop cheat­ing on the Heli­um net­work. You can report sus­pect­ed gamers to Crowdspot isn’t a per­fect fix. What it does is sur­face up appar­ent­ly bad behav­ior so folks from the PoC­SWG can find poten­tial bad actors faster. Just report­ing a gam­ing clus­ter does­n’t mean they’ll be shut down by the end of the week (or even in 6 months), it just makes it eas­i­er to iden­ti­fy who might be poten­tial­ly bad. Remem­ber, if it was just a vot­ing sys­tem, a whale could just vote against YOU and there’d be noth­ing you can do about that.

Oth­er ways you can help includ­ing dig­ging into the stats to see if you can fig­ure out bet­ter ways to spot and prove cheat­ing, or vol­un­teer your efforts for the PoCSWG.

The most excit­ing news out of all of this (for me) has noth­ing to do with cheat­ing, and every­thing to do with a net­work worth try­ing to cheat. We have built some­thing amaz­ing here, a glob­al­ly use­ful decen­tral­ized net­work. It is so amaz­ing and valu­able that actu­al crooks are try­ing to cheat it. While it’s bloody frus­trat­ing, it’s also the sign of a very healthy net­work. After all, no one steals from a beggar.

With that in mind, if you’ve been frus­trat­ed by cheat­ing, know two things: First, a group of peo­ple are work­ing on your behalf to min­i­mize the dam­age cheaters are caus­ing, and they’re more or less suc­ceed­ing. Sec­ond, even if all cheaters on the net­work were stopped TODAY it would have a min­i­mal impact to your earn­ings com­pared to what you could do if you actu­al­ly built a busi­ness using the network. 

The time for crush­ing on PoC and data rewards is gone. The absolute­ly most prof­itable thing you can do right now is not the focus on what is wrong, but on how you can build some­thing on the net­work. THAT is where the largest oppor­tu­ni­ty lies, and where I strong­ly rec­om­mend you put your ablest effort.

To your suc­cess in Helium!


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