Tony Gardner Talks About “Cheating” with iRacing News editor David Phillips

In the coming weeks, iRacingNews will feature a series of conversations with key members of the iRacing team discussing topics of interest to the iRacing and sim-racing community.  To get the ball rolling, I sat down with iRacing president Tony Gardner and picked his brain about iRacing’s ongoing efforts to insure the integrity of the world’s foremost online racing service.  Which is a nice way of saying, we talked about cheating.  

Much as we all wish it were otherwise, cheating is an element of iRacing just as it is in any sport, whether it’s athletes doping, race teams making “deals,” basketball players shaving points or Rosie Ruiz taking the subway to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Each sport has its own challenges, none moreso than one that sanctions and organizes some 200,000 online races annually for 50,000 members around the world.  Read on to learn more (but not ALL) about how iRacing is working hard to put a lid on cheaters and their cheats . . .

Q:     As a fellow employee at iRacing, I know a lot of time and energy is put into anti-cheating measures.  Care to talk more about that?

Sim-racing does not have a monopoly on cheating.

A:     Sure.  First of all, we simply do not tolerate cheaters.  We do our best to try and prevent cheating, disrupt it anyway possible and make it as difficult as we can for cheaters.  However with the current operating systems in place, it is simply not possible for any game — including iRacing — to entirely stop people from cheating or trying to cheat, so we also do our best to try and CATCH people cheating using various automated detection measures.

I should also take a second to clarify what I mean by “cheating”, for the purposes of this discussion, Dave.  I usually mean tampering with our software or modifying anything that artificially changes the game, whether or not on purpose  or whether the purpose was to gain a “competitive” advantage.

At any rate, we have automatic monitoring going on-all the time for all members and we keep adding new wrinkles to those efforts.  Along with our own ideas, we talk to other gaming companies in the industry, attend workshops and do our homework in other ways to make sure we are thinking and doing what we can in terms of best practices.  If anything, we are working harder and harder at this; so if you are a cheater, be aware.  We also have the ability to put automated watches on specific people which amps-up certain things and we also start monitoring their results and race data for anything unusual.

There are all sorts of different kinds of cheats from bots and lags, lag switches to trying to remove or add game elements, to trying to disconnect and connect, to modifying code, files, scripts, hardware, controllers, data, and settings and on and on.   It is important to note that linking or modifying/changing or even trying to link or modify any part of the game that is not part of the normal experience will not only get you banned without refund but, from a legal standpoint, you are also violating the license agreement and are tampering illegally with Intellectual Property.   Anyway, there are different measures we use to try and attack any one or all of these issues.

It should be mentioned that unsporting play or racing is also a form of cheating.

“We banned about 40 people for trying to modify various elements of iRacing in the past couple months . . . “

Q:     Let’s cut to the chase, are people cheating on iRacing?

A:     I’m sure someone is probably trying to cheat right now on our game . . . and on any popular game!  So the answer is yes.  Whether or not they get away with it is the other question.  That is the nature of the beast unfortunately.  By the way, we just attended an anti-cheating seminar which was very interesting.  Basically, industry-wide, the number that was thrown around is 1% of gamers attempt to cheat via cheat hacks, exploits, bots, lags and things like that.   That’s probably not all that bad a number if you consider all the bad apples or whatever in society.  With 50,000 + members we are bound to get our share.   For example, Steam/Valve — the largest gaming portal in the world — has banned hundreds of thousands of people for using cheat hacks.  Then again they have 75 million accounts.

We banned about 40 people for trying to modify various elements of iRacing in the past couple months that were flagged through our automated detection measures.

Q:     Wow, good information.  You just banned 40 members.  Tell us more about that?

Cheating is hardly a new phenomenon.

A:     Well I don’t want to give too much specific or technical information but, again, they were caught via our automated monitoring.

The process is they all get banned without refunds but have the right to appeal.  So far, about half of those 40 filed an appeal.     You normally see appeals from people who tried to cheat or modify something once or to a small degree in a private test session because they feel — or at least they tell us — it was an innocent mistake.  Some of those who appeal typically feel they have valid reasons; others are just honest and tell us they were curious and made a single mistake, and apologized.  Some do deny they were cheating.  More often than not though, they don’t deny it once we provide some details to them.   In some cases we may reduce the ban to a suspension, but most of time we don’t.  Generally speaking it is one of the few things that we ban for a first offense rather than issuing a suspension or using it as a “teaching moment.”

The other thing we hear is “I did not realize I was ‘cheating.’   That is not really an excuse to us.  I won’t go into details as to why, but to be honest if it happens to you, just tell us the truth and we can figure it out.  The full truth always works, not partial. Once things start to sound odd or funny we have less and less sympathy.

Q:     Do you ban people right away when you detect them cheating?

A:     We could and we sometimes do, but not always.  In fact, we typically like to wait a while for various reasons. We get automated cheat reports daily and we could automate the suspension itself.  However, we often wait before we take action to see how much a member — or members — is using cheat files.  Frankly, we build the evidence and see how wide the circle might grow in order to catch other cheaters, especially if we feel the cheating is gaining little or no advantage, which is most often the case.

We also monitor which people start using the same “cheat.”  Maybe we can get to the source of the cheat if it is shared somehow.    We also want to know how much, if any, any particular cheat helps a cheater go faster . . . which is very good information.

When in doubt, consult the FIRST Sporting Code.

But there’s another reason we don’t ban instantly:  We try to make this a professional process, and we think we have succeeded. For example, a member may have cheated once, six months ago (keep reading below) because a new detection we just added to the system might have just caught them. Therefore, we would rather explain to them via an organized communication process why they are being banned and what options they may have rather simply having a big red “you’re banned cheater” that comes up in the middle of a race when they may have already forgotten they even cheated or possibly did not even realize they cheated six months ago.

Most often, we see people trying to use cheats in private sessions, probably out of curiosity . . . at least that is what we are often told.  The funny part is we rarely see cheats give people better race results.

We also are constantly looking at adding new cheat detection measures, and those often can go back in time.  This has happened before, in fact, on numerous occasions.  Therefore, we might contact a member telling them we caught them cheating and they may say “That’s impossible.  I have not raced in weeks.”  So when we tell them the incident occurred seven months ago and give them the details, not surprisingly, it comes as a big shock to them.  So again, cheaters beware:  There is no statute of limitations on iRacing. Don’t think you got away with it if even a few months have passed.  :)

“There is no statute of limitations on iRacing.”

Q:     What if anything new are you working on to stop cheating?

A:     We have some new ideas to catch more people that we are going to work on right away to add to our 24/7 monitoring of all members.  Obviously, I can’t give the details.

As far as prevention, we also have some new ideas and are reviewing some of the basics like making sure we have encrypted everything we can, along with having to digitally sign all the executables we can and that sort of thing.

There are a couple things that we know about that are smaller in-game “cheats” that we think we can fix.  Sometimes there is behavior in the game that is cheating, for example, things like trying to heat-up tires artificially and lag switches, which we try and stay on top of.  Anything like that is a violation of the Sporting Code and could result in a suspension in the short term but in the longer term we would rather just take away the advantage for anything like that if we can.

We also have discussed publicly flagging accounts that have been caught cheating and, despite all my reasoning above, we may decide to automatically ban certain cheats on the spot.  But we are not working on either one of those at the moment.  Many other games do flag accounts for cheating and some even list the people who were caught cheating.  I’m not sure we will go there – in fact I’d say probably not – but it’s something to think about.

Regardless of the sport, there are no shortcuts to genuine excellence.

Q:     Any other thoughts on cheating Tony?

A:     It is extremely unfortunate that we have people trying to cheat and cheaters on iRacing.  It sucks away valuable development resources that could be used to develop new features and positive things, but it is something we must do.  It is a bummer.  These are our resources and, therefore, the members’ money being spent on policing and trying to stop cheats.

So I would encourage all members to help and let us know if you see or hear anything “fishy” going on, including letting us know if you hear about third-party developers writing cheats.  If you see or suspect someone cheating on iRacing, please tell us and provide all the details you have.  You can contact me directly or any staff member.  We also setup a new email to report any information you might have. It will be kept strictly confidential.  It is Reportcheaters@iracing.com

I would also say that, although it is very important to do all we can to prevent cheating, people can also get worked-up about cheating to the point of being destructive.  Cheating happens in the real world in every sport including racing; it happens in every game and, I don’t say this lightly, it is going to happen here. That damn 1%!

“Gossip . . . can create a lot of problems that, in their own way, are far more detrimental to the service than cheating.”

Our goal is to do a better job than most and annoy the hell out of anyone trying to cheat  . . . and make them lose sleep.  I think we are doing that but we have more work to do in that regard, which is not good news for cheaters.  40 people just found out recently that we are watching.    If we know or suspect someone is cheating, trust me, we are on it.  Everyone on iRacing is being monitored and those processes are only improving.
Also and this important, sometimes people might not be cheating and yet they are accused on the forums and elsewhere without good reason.  Remember, gossip is often just that:  gossip.  It can be driven by jealousy or some other human emotion and it can create a lot of problems that, in their own way, are far more detrimental to the service than cheating.

Make sure I or another staff member know about a potential cheater privately and leave it at that.  Drive, have fun and do your best to get better, if that is your goal.  If someone is getting away with something for a while, they are only cheating themselves.  It will catch up to them someday here or in another part of life; don’t let just the mere thought of it ruin your fun.

We have had the pleasure of watching many of iRacing’s best drivers race on our computers here in the office and they put up the exact same blazing lap times as they do at home.  If some people we haven’t caught yet are cheating, I can assure you the cheating will not help enough to beat those guys and probably is not impacting any of the fun or competition for an average member either from what we have seen.

Good racing!

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32 Comments

I would like the cheaters listed in public forum please , just makes good since and maybe ban them for 1yr for 1st cheat then 2nd offence if any would be a life time ban I appreciate what iracing is doing to make this sport better ,, thx again

william fletcher
January 29th, 2014 at 10:32 pm

What good would that do William? Like a large chunk of iRacers you are just looking to stroke a fire and troll the responses you get on the forums. Mr. Gardner has already spoken his peace on the subject, and rightfully so it should not be public knowledge…it would do nothing but hurt the service and raise the number of popcorn purchases.

Jonathan Goke
January 29th, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Don’t get your hopes up everyone, I went out and proved cheating is too easy in November, immediately sent the information to iRacing asking them to help and offered my assistance. They responded and appreciated my information while I assured them I wouldn’t do it in an official session. A month and a half later, I was banned for it, which was fine, I understand why it was done. However, when I appealed they told me they caught me SIX MONTHS AGO (even though I wasn’t). SIX MONTHS, and they didn’t do anything then, and still took them 1.5 months to do anything after I told them I could and have done it. So don’t get your hopes up that iRacing is actually taking this seriously, as they have proven throughout the years they don’t know what they are doing.

John Gorlinsky
January 30th, 2014 at 2:36 am

Agree with John. iRacing has no idea how to properly fix this.

Anony Moose
January 30th, 2014 at 4:37 am

Level Playing field. that’s all I ask. Pardon my technical ignorance, but can a Scandinavian, a South American, a Canadian and someone from Japan, with identical computer set ups, race a fixed set up event with equality, or does local internet activity create in-equality? Would they be placed in different races due to location or “connectivity”? What if you disable the Force-Feedback in your wheel?
I really enjoy this service, mostly as a simulator to learn tracks I may never get to drive on. But every once in a while, I just can’t believe some of the times put down. Yeah, I’m slow and I know it.

Ed Yepez
January 30th, 2014 at 4:50 am

Sadly I know who actually showed john hot to use this hack. and he was shown how to use it after his accused cheating date in dwc.

iRacing has no idea what is going on and its sad that they are trying to act like they do. John tried to show iRacing how do a certain thing so they could prevent it and they flipped out

Trusted Source
January 30th, 2014 at 5:37 am

Sim racing kind of levels the playing field in the respect that, your wallet won’t help you go faster and everyone is driving the same car, albeit with different setups, but no one has a ten horsepower advantage or five gallons of extra fuel stashed in their roll bar. conventional cheating is a thing of the past. Now we have to deal with E-Cheating. Or, now we realize we may have already been dealing with it.

Ray Bernard
January 30th, 2014 at 10:13 am

heres a link to some of them talking about a weight hack that they where running http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0LPMD9kWEs&feature=youtu.be

Jim Bob
January 30th, 2014 at 4:06 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0LPMD9kWEs&feature=youtu.be

Jim Bob
January 30th, 2014 at 4:07 pm

so what about video proof that someone that cheated is still running in the sim?

Jim Bob
January 30th, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Good one Gorlinsky. Maybe leave out a few facts?

Jay B
January 30th, 2014 at 6:22 pm

I’am new to iracing, but not new to the gaming community, I’ve been gaming for to many years to mention, it might of been cod , battle field , F1, grid , every game has its cheats, if you cheat then you should not get any chances, no right to appeal, just out right banned for good , for life, cheaters are very sad people who just spoil it for everyone else, I to like William f. think if they have been caught with any type of cheat hack, then they should be publically named in the forums , that’s the least iracing can do for all the genuine racer out there to see….

Chris Morris
January 30th, 2014 at 7:25 pm

What facts do you want Jay B?

Gorlinsky
January 30th, 2014 at 7:46 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0LPMD9kWEs

James Avalos
January 31st, 2014 at 12:12 am

Some people make their hacks/cheats way to easy to detect. If you are going to cheat at least don’t make it so noticeable!

What I love are the “fixed races” which means EVERYONE has the same SETUP but not EVERYONE has the CHEAT!

Michael Keeton
January 31st, 2014 at 12:30 am

Some people make their hacks/cheats way to easy to detect. If you are going to cheat at least don’t make it so noticeable! What I love are the “fixed races” which means EVERYONE has the same SETUP but not EVERYONE has the CHEAT!

Michael Keeton
January 31st, 2014 at 12:32 am

I had a funny feeling people was cheating!! That the only way they can win just like then 1st shooter games the only why they can kill you is to have some kind of hack..I hope iracing can put a stop to all this cheating because it is pissing me off why i can’t even keep up with some of these guys when our car are suppose to be the same.. i am one to say i did heat my tires one time and got caught, damm if i do that again, i had no idea that was a form of cheating at the time because i did not read the sporting code. Beware guys they will catch you

Dana
January 31st, 2014 at 5:52 am

so according to trusted source, john used a “cheat” he got off someone that trusted source knows the name of, to show iracing it was possible to cheat.

i’m not in a position to dispute that but i have to ask, have either of you given the name of who provided the cheat ? or are you just expecting iracing to solve the problem without potentially useful information?

also did john try giving the cheat to iracing first for them to try and only resort to trying it himself because iracing didn’t do anything ?

kev newnes
January 31st, 2014 at 9:15 am

m,

Brodie Kostecki
January 31st, 2014 at 7:09 pm

All i can say is…. what a joke, iRacing has no cheat detection what so ever apart from looking at your processes (easy to bypass) the funny thing is i found a method of how to do it. I approached John gave him the program pin pointed the what to do, we could turn fuel off, change grill tape during the race without pitting and even tire pressure. iRacing had no idea what so ever we had tried in private servers until John approached them. And the funny thing is i showed John the program in NOVEMBER….. so how does that work?? Bunch of monkeys and we fed them a bad banana and they just covered it up.

Brodie Kostecki
January 31st, 2014 at 8:58 pm

It took me a few days to get it to actually work, I wasn’t going to send them something and say “Here, figure it out!” I got it to work before I sent them anything concrete.

John Gorlinsky
February 1st, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Oh, sad. I started to get into this dork “sport” after leaving a real Pro sport with loads of cheaters. Thought I had left all the Hincapie’s and Armstrong’s behind. Boohoo, woe is me, etc…

Disk golf, that’s next. Those hippies are all too high to cheat!

Hammy
February 4th, 2014 at 2:16 am

upsets me that some pro drivers cheat… you guys are a bunch of losers man… for us out here racing trying our hardest to make it up the ladder you guys get there by cheating.

Anonymous
February 4th, 2014 at 6:51 am

I am curious if there is an advantage when someone is using a 2000 dollars wheels and pedals compared to what i have a g27 wheel for 300 dollars? Especially in a fixed set up races. There has to be a reason why those higher dollars wheels and pedals cost more?

michael zebley
February 4th, 2014 at 6:40 pm

The expensive wheels and pedals cost more because they use better quality materials and aren’t mass produced.
You are paying for quality and realism not more speed.
Can be fast using a Logitech DFGT wheel and pedals.
Its all about how you use them eg understanding how to get the most out of the car and your ability with hand/eye/foot control.

budget gamer
February 5th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Positive feedback for iRacing.com with personal experience…

I recently was one of those caught by the cheating system…and since it was in December, probably one of the 40 mentioned and did file a (successful!) appeal. I have to say the whole experience was VERY professional.

Naturally I will not give out any details…but was taken VERY by surprise, but I never felt angry or upset since iRacing.com’s tough stance on cheating is one of the big reasons I race here in the first place. I honestly felt that it was a misunderstanding, and that an appeal, filed on good faith, would afford me the opportunity to overturn the ban.

The appeals process was not short, but all I wanted was an opportunity to turn over every little thing I could think of to help clear things up and then just trust that once real human beings saw what I had, would agree.

That was exactly what happened, and I was thrilled…sure I lost some track time, but nothing beats having my faith in iRacing.com and trust in the process turn out to be true in the end.

Super tough, but fair anti-cheating measures is the only thing that will keep this service legitimate and the community the great place it is. I have really enjoyed my years here so far and look forward to many more!

Thomas
February 6th, 2014 at 4:50 am

Very cool news item. I am relatively a newb and not very good at iRacing, so cheaters and non-cheaters alike would kick my ass. But, it is good to know that I am getting my ass kicked fairly… and “I” need to improve, not the game/sim.

Thanks iRacing for keeping things fair.

john
February 7th, 2014 at 3:00 pm

There are many people on this game that cheat and iracing does NOTHING. they talk a big game but dont want to put out the bucks to stop it. Please team up with steam and get punk buster in here or something. Talk to the guy that made rFscan and get him on board. This is ridiculous.

Mark
February 26th, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Hrmmm all the blinking cars make sense now

Darrin Isenberg
July 4th, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Go Hard on them guys. This is soooo much more serious (at least to me) than cheating on an arcade game. You see, to me iRacing is a simulator, not a game. Being a Simulator, I also simulate the passion and dedication to excellence foun in real world full scale race cars. By that I mean I practice hard and for extremely long periods to “Win” or place well. It hurts badly to be beaten by someone who has put in no effort what so ever. there are some pretty clever cheaters out there who know how to get around normal cheat detections, i beg iRacing to detect using statistics. If a driver plods along with a certain average of statisic, their stats will not suddenly change overnight or even over a week. any good driver on iRacing knows this. there should be a simple formula that can be used to monitor statistics and if that driver falls into the categolry of their statistics increase too rapidly that then flags them for extreme scrutiny and monitoring. All I know is that if too many cheats get through it encourages a “If you cant beat ’em, join ;em” Mentality amongst other players the next thing you know its like battlfield (the game) where more than half of the players are cheating, then there is a market for paid cheats and paid programmers jump on board and start making cheats that are very hard to detect. in other words I am begging you iRacing staff to jump on this early and jump on it hard. Banning 40 ppl does not sound like enough. I agree that cheaters should be publicly named, but not allowed to return, ever. The reason I think Cheaters should be publicly named is not for public ridicule and lynching, but so that us non cheating drivers can recognise what cheating may have looked like and so we can then report our suspicions to iRacing with some what of an education on it. Right now the best we could say is “he got too fast too quick” or something similar. but if we raced for weeks along side a cheater who was then later banned and named, we could then compare that banned driver with someone else in the future and hopefully recognise any signs or patterns,

PLEASE, I beg you iRacing, GET RID OF THE CHEATERS…Before it becomes overwhelming

Jayson Black
January 9th, 2015 at 7:26 pm

Well as we know there is alot of cheaters I would like to know if iracing can make a anti cheats for the ones who have there own iracing league. When I ran rFactor and Arca league races you could
download a anti cheat when the league owner made the setup and put in as a league fixed. And if some one was using a cheat hack it would kick the out and you would know.I would think as smart as the iracing tect are they could come up with something for us that run iracing league.?

Vincent Viney
April 23rd, 2015 at 2:28 pm

It would actually be a good thing having a “black list” of those cheaters. I’m always looking for fair and good play, and I’m quite slow comparing to, let’s say, 70% of the whole iRacing community. Yet, I think cheating’s the very bottom of the chain and should be public for everyone.

João Neves
June 2nd, 2016 at 10:34 am

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