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Cheating at Seti@home

CmdrTaco posted more than 11 years ago | from the bored-lately dept.

News 245

Megor writes "Well it was bound to happen, people are cheating on Seti@home to inflate their work unit statistics, and the people who administer Seti are ignoring the complaints. ZDNET has an article explaining how they are cheating."

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245 comments

Interesting paper on this subject (5, Informative)

taviso (566920) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571195)

Theres an interesting paper on this subject available here [distributed.net] . well worth a read.

Holey Moley! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571200)

A first post which is

1. on-topic
2. gets modded up

What's this world coming to?

Re:Holey Moley! (0, Troll)

phunhippy (86447) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571231)

A first post which is

1. on-topic
2. gets modded up

What's this world coming to?


2nd posts that are surprised at a first post that is relevant and a shameless FUNNY karma whoreing grab...

Re:Holey Moley! (0, Offtopic)

xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571651)

2nd posts that are surprised at a first post that is relevant and a shameless FUNNY karma whoreing grab...

Well, it is Halloween...
It may not be April 1st, but close enough, it seems...

:-)

Re:Holey Moley! (2)

isorox (205688) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571264)

What's this world coming to?

I blame the new server - its all different and backwards on that side of the country. They drive on the wrong side of the road too dont they?

Re:Holey Moley! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571592)

Moderation Totals: OffT=15, Flame=3, Troll=9, Redund=2, Insight=1, Inform=4, Fun=32, OverR=9, UnderR=2, Total=77.

Did you really get that? I'd love to see that post if you happen to have a link.

whyd they (-1, Redundant)

davisshaver (583015) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571196)

why were they cheating seti, a not for profit orginization, when they could be doing actual work.

Re:whyd they (2, Funny)

murat (262137) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571201)

why were they cheating seti, a not for profit orginization, when they could be doing actual work
For positive KARMA!

Re:whyd they (0)

flippet (582344) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571204)

Put in Slashdot-ese...

1. Cheat at Seti@Home; build up loads of units
2. Sell units on eBay (it does happen...)
3. ???
4. Profit!

Phil, just me

Re:whyd they (1)

Zathruss (451471) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571248)

How the heck do you sell Seti@home work units, and more to the point, why would you want to? My mind boggles.

Re:whyd they (5, Funny)

simong_oz (321118) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571252)

2. Sell units on eBay (it does happen...)

Wow. The depths of humanity that eBay churns up will never stop amazing me.

The saddest thing of all is not that the units are being sold, but that there are people out there buying them. GET A LIFE

Re:whyd they (1, Offtopic)

rppp01 (236599) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571414)

1. Cheat on SETI

2. ....

3. PROFIT!!

No seriously....I don't know why either. What a joke. Is having the best group worth hurting a perfectly good and (arguably) noble program such as SETI? I can understand games - but this? Let me guess they are the same people who bitch that think they need a quad xeon box for a single web site with less than 300 hits a day.

-sigh-

Land of the free (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571197)

Washington Post [washingtonpost.com] :

TORONTO -- The Canadian government issued a travel advisory this week with a twist: It suggests citizens born in Iraq, Syria and other countries targeted by U.S. anti-terrorism policies consider avoiding travel to the United States.

Re:Land of the free (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571666)

oh, bullshit, Canada can always be brought back into line, all we have to do is drop a 5 megaton bomb on a couple of their cities (Montreal and British Colombia come to mind) and maybe they'll treat their betters with a little bit more God-damned respect.

Motivation? (5, Insightful)

Enocasiones (563499) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571199)

What drives people to do this? You may brag about being first, but still, you'll be first together with all your teammates. Lots of people to share the credit, not much left for an individual. And the fact that the cheating could corrupt the results just makes matters worse.

Re:Motivation? (1, Flamebait)

giminy (94188) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571218)

And the fact that the cheating could corrupt the results

Read the article. The cheating doesn't corrupt the results of the effort...this isn't like the distributed.net challenge problem where people could say they checked a portion of the keyspace when in fact they hadn't. If someone's transmitting stuff out there, it won't be overlooked because of the cheaters.

Re:Motivation? (3, Informative)

Enocasiones (563499) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571223)

YOU should read the article:

Nealon has also identified ways in which the cheating could pervert the accuracy of data received by the project.

"Pervert the accuracy" means "corrupt" in my dictionary.

Re:Motivation? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571281)

I'm not an anonymous coward. My handle in seti is EG, I crunch for EXDC and am a member of ARS technica.

One of the cheats actually indexes the name of the wu. the name of the wu contains data that locates the data to a chunk of the data tape.

by indexing the same file name over and over to bypass the duplicate checking routines, you are introducing wu's that do not correlate to their proper location in space. Resubmit such a wu thousands of times with the name indexed each time it's sent destroys the baseline of the science database. Copy the same wu to 1,000 other people for submission multiplies the error a million fold. it is very conceivable that there might be whole chunks of wu's results that cannot be scientifically normed to ANY location on the starmap! It does effect the science data.

Re:Motivation? (2, Informative)

simong_oz (321118) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571240)

My guess would be that it's the same sort of motivation that drives f@%$wits to beat up a pensioner for the $1.50 they might find.

OK, it's a dodgy analogy, but I'm just saying that I'm not sure it's possible to understand the motivation without having it yourself. To you and I (and many others), corrupting the results of the research is a terrible thing, but these arseholes just don't give a shit.

Open letter to SETI cheaters: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571558)

1. You are idiots with no sense.


2. If this is how you are spending your attention you will never, ever get laid.

Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (5, Interesting)

holle2 (85109) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571202)

I thought the move to close the source of SETI@home back in the old days was meant to stop the cheating ?
Could it be that the protocol should be redesigned to contain, say digital signaures embedded into the binary (well not really a save place for that anyway ..)

Re:Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (3, Interesting)

Enocasiones (563499) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571235)

M$ products & others' are closed and look at all the "cheats" (exploits) you can use on them. You cant stop the cheating through obscurity, as the linked page [distributed.net] in the First Post states.

Re:Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (4, Interesting)

ebbomega (410207) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571260)

If anything, closing source opens you up to "cheats" because every time that an exploit/cheat comes up, you don't have OpenSource-support to fix it sooner rather than later.

Closing source isn't like sealing a tank. It's more like building a beaver-dam.

Re:Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (2, Insightful)

fitten (521191) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571428)

In a very ideolistic view, yes. Opening the source also makes it *very* easy for me to take the source, then do whatever I want to the code to produce whatever results I want using as much/little CPU as I want and return whatever results I want. Basically, I can change the program to be like this:

int main()
{
read_data_from_server();
compute_bogus_validator();
send_bogus_results_to_server();
}

and since I have the *source*, it is very easy to read and interpret (don't need to know ASM or anything or deal with decyphering of disassembled code).

Yes, you can fix bugs and submit the changes to fix the source tree but you make it *much* easier for cheaters to cheat if they want (and quite possibly enable more people to cheat).

Re:Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (1)

fitten (521191) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571444)

er... needed to add more... Open Source as you speak of it assumes that people *want* to have bug-free and usable code that produces correct results. That is why bug fixes are checked back into the tree. *This* type of cheating would love the source so they could modify the source at home even easier with less effort/time (with no intention ever of checking the changes into the source tree) to produce bogus results faster.

Re:Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (5, Interesting)

anshil (302405) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571270)

Closing the source does not help a bit. After all you give a binary to your "foe", thats enough. Look in example to Ultima Online, they encrypt the stream already in 10 layers or so, with constant changing keys, algorithmns and so on. But it is still beeing hacked, simple as that, you've a binary of the client, you can view the algorithmn on assembler basis, thats enough "source" code to hack anything assuming enough motivation and time.

Look at all the companies trying to hinder people copying with copy protection CD's, tongels and all that. Does it help? No it's all just a new challange for the hacker folk.

Re:Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (1)

keller (267973) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571282)

This is not the kind of cheating the closed source was supposed to prevent.
SETI@home doesn't want people to mingle with the results af the analysis and or the packet data, and indicate signs of life when there is none. That kind of cheating would be catastrophic...

Re:Wasn't cheating to be "impossible" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571554)

SETI@home doesn't want people to mingle with the results af the analysis and or the packet data, and indicate signs of life when there is none.

the other year my family was making sauerkraut, and my aunt noticed it called for a lot of salt. she thought it would be healthier if she cut the salt down to a tenth. ruined the whole batch and my granma was PISSED (aint nothin like a pissed off 95 year old).
if the recipe had been closed source, maybe just a packet of "stuff" to add instead of the exact ingredients, then my aunt would not have thought she could outsmart the original cooks.

i supposed seti@home w/ their code is the same - some script kiddie would say "ohh, if i change this function here i return results in a tenth of the time", not realizing the underlying math and just been destroyed.

SETI Checking? (5, Insightful)

rabiteman (585341) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571206)

From the article:
One common technique used by cheats is to distribute partially completed work units to other team members' SETI@home accounts. One account is used to process a work unit until it is 99 per cent complete. It is then distributed hundreds of other team members who process the remaining portion of the unit and return it. The WU is credited to their accounts vastly inflating the quantity of public processing that appear to be dedicated to the project.

Let's assume cheating is going on, and is being perpetrated in this manner. Why doesn't SETI@Home check each WU as it's submitted and say "Gee, here's hundreds of people from the same team submitting the same WU with the same result within minutes of each other. Seems awful suspicious!"

Seems awful suspicious.

Re:SETI Checking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571217)

Why doesn't SETI@Home check each WU as it's submitted...
Yeah --- how come features don't magically appear in software the minute the need for them is perceived?

Re:SETI Checking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571503)

how come features don't magically appear in software the minute the need for them is perceived?

You mean this doesn't happen in your software?
You must be one of those windows users. Try open source sometime.

Re:SETI Checking? (5, Informative)

phragle (83450) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571221)

Seti does check,

As I understand it, for each unitl they send a number of redundant units out and then compare the evetual results taking the most popular result to be the correct result for that unit.

Re:SETI Checking? (5, Insightful)

rabiteman (585341) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571265)

As I understand it, for each unitl they send a number of redundant units out and then compare the evetual results taking the most popular result to be the correct result for that unit.

Even if this is the case, the point remains that one group handing in 300 redundant copies of the same data processed the same way will skew the results. What if the guy who processed the first 99% had some kind of screwup along the way, and his team hands in 300 copies of his screwed-up data? The other 3 people who got the same WU and got the right answer will be 'outvoted' by Team Cheater, ruining the whole effort (for that particular chunk of raw data, at any rate).

Re:SETI Checking? (4, Insightful)

Zocalo (252965) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571327)

I don't know about Seti@Home, but if I were designing the WU submission / verification procedure, I'd be looking for anomalous submissions and verifying them on my own, trusted hardware. That includes all high positives and any units where you management DB is reporting a data validation mismatches - like more units returned than dispatched.

Ultimately the league tables are just a bit of fun to entice more people into getting involved, Seti@Home probably doesn't care about who leads the tables in the slightest, only about getting a result. As long as they are confident that a positive result will not slip by unnoticed, why get involved in an resource wasting arms race with the cheaters?

Re:SETI Checking? (4, Interesting)

phragle (83450) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571268)

from the seti FAQ http://setifaq.org/faq.txt 2.4 I heard I was getting the same work unit as everyone else. Is the program wasting my time? Nope, because the only time you're giving it is time your computer would have wasted anyway. Yes, early in the program there were times when the same work units went out over and over, due to overloading of the SETI@home servers that were supposed to be making new ones to send out. (They didn't expect half a million people to sign up, and they don't have enough staff or computing power to keep up with it.) And since then, the same work units are still sent out to several people, for various reasons (for instance, more than half the people who signed up have never returned their work units, and probably dropped out) But new work units are being sent out too, so just leave your SETI@home program working and it'll take care of the details. Note: If workunits are sent out multiple times, they can be doublechecked by SETI@home.

Re:SETI Checking? (5, Interesting)

Coplan (13643) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571571)

Simple solution...

Seti should track what it hands out (and I'm sure it probably does). In fact, it should probably track to who it sends it (again, it probably does).

If Seti sends out 30 WUs (abroad), it should know that if it gets 200 back, a flag should be sent up. If seti sends a WU to Bob, but not to Gregg, and Gregg sends THAT WU back, the one returned from Gregg should be voided.

This is not about preventing competition. Screw that...Seti shouldn't be concerned about this issue relative to that. Seti's concern should be plain and simple -- it should be protecting the integrity of the data. 'Nuff Said.

Re:SETI Checking? (2, Insightful)

ninjadoug (609521) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571660)

why should they care anyway. It's not like the points actually mean anything. This is like all those people who complain about 'Karma Whores'. Let them cheat, in fact give them a million points, just worry about the data I say

Re:SETI Checking? (2)

friscolr (124774) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571490)

Why doesn't SETI@Home check each WU as it's submitted and say "Gee, here's hundreds of people from the same team submitting the same WU with the same result within minutes of each other. Seems awful suspicious!"

they should make note of each work unit that goes out, and make sure it comes back from the same account. if the same account returns the same unit more than X times, it would be abusive but wouldnt cause any harm nor be added to the totals for that account.

i suppose you could then cheat by getting a shitload of WU's (a few million?) and comparing to the millions of WU's your friend got, split the same ones and send them both in once processed. if the total pool of WU's is large enough, this should be rather impratical or should at least be easily spotted.

Ahem. (5, Insightful)

acehole (174372) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571216)

This has been going on for as long as seti@home has been running.

There are a variety of excuses people have for doing such things, such as :-

* making the program calculate units faster
* falsifying unit completion and results
* hoping they cheat enough so they can get up the top of a table

These people dont realise the problems with doing such things, If you contaminate the results with fraudulant and false data then you might as well forget about the whole project.

What happens if there really was something found, but due to the high rate of contamination that it was thought to be too good to be true and discarded. Consequences really need to be thought out before you start wrecking the hardwork of scientists and academics who are only doing a service for everyone's benefit.

Re:Ahem. (1)

rgsmith (473418) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571238)

I concur.

However, the competitive nature of man is what drives this project... seriously, don't you think that everyone who installs the SETI@Home client dreams of being 'the one' who computes the package that proves the existence of extraterrestrial life? Without this, or perhaps the dream of having your computer be the one that discovers the cure for cancer, or any of the other distributed computing project's goals - your level of participation will be quite low. ...so, you have to plan your project with this in mind... dangle the carrot in front of the rabbit, but ENSURE that they can't actually get to it and eat it.

Re:Ahem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571514)

dangle the carrot in front of the rabbit, but ENSURE that they can't actually get to it and eat it.

i ate a carrot once. my eyes felt a lot better afterwards but the fishhook hurt my mouth.

Re:Ahem. (5, Informative)

taviso (566920) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571244)

one of the major culprits for this was actually Microsoft, they had a scam going where they optimized the SETI software for Windows and then published the results to show how well their platform performed.

Theres more information in the setifaq [setifaq.org] , section 1.3.6

and on this usenet thread [google.com] .

its a very interesting topic.

Re:Ahem. (2)

Martin S. (98249) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571418)

one of the major culprits for this was actually Microsoft, they had a scam going where they optimized the SETI software for Windows and then published the results to show how well their platform performed.

Much as I hate Microsoft, and would love to find them guilty, this is not cheating. It just minimising their natural disadvantage.

Re:Ahem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571549)

No, you should read the links too, rather than just make up your own conclusion.

The SETI people disallowed the data because they couldn't veryify that MS's implementation was actually correct.

Re:Ahem. (4, Interesting)

IIRCAFAIKIANAL (572786) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571361)

What happens if there really was something found, but due to the high rate of contamination that it was thought to be too good to be true and discarded. Consequences really need to be thought out before you start wrecking the hardwork of scientists and academics who are only doing a service for everyone's benefit.


Not that I disagree with you overall, but if they thought they found something but the results were contaminated, they would just reprocess them. Now, what we should worry about is something being overlooked...

Cheating != Satisfaction (1)

Lefty2446 (232351) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571224)

Why oh why can't these people be happy whith the real and honest work they do for the project?

Cheating, result stuffing, whatever you want to call it does nothing but diminish the overall value of the scientific work being done.

The fact that the SETI group does nothing about this is confusing to me.

This can't be that big of a problem (1)

terraformer (617565) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571225)

I have not had seti running for 6 months and am currently in 95 percentile. Before that I was running it occasionaly on a PII 400 mHz NT4 machine. Anyhow, who cares??? I have better things to worry about than people who are in a race to be the first to not discover alien life...

Re:This can't be that big of a problem (3, Insightful)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571249)

Yeah, but if they are also submitting corrupt work units (it is unknown whether or not they are), and these corrupted work units cause a false negative, we could have easily already discovered alien life and not even know it. Not likely, but still possible.

Allowing something like this to go on just undermines all credibility of the project. I'm sure a lot of people would be turned away from participating in SETI@Home 2 (if/when it happens) if they know that this type of stuff is going on. I mean, this is something that has been explicitly brought to the admins attention, and they are just ignoring it. What would make anyone think they are going to take a proactive role in seeing that this type of stuff doesn't happen in the future?

Re:This can't be that big of a problem (3, Interesting)

terraformer (617565) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571267)

Fair enough on the corruption point. I understand however, the position of the admins who are near the end of the project and have very few resources left. Although the overwhelming support they have received from the public for their work is a blessing, it has been a curse too. The more users they got, the more money they had to spend to support them (although cost per user has probably gone down). I would not be surprised that the whole project is being run by Grad students right now and the university would probably lend support for any big catastrophes should they occur.

They are probably unable to cope at this point, so near the end, to deal with it real time. There is nothing to prevent them from going in later to adjust and obviously, any published work based on the project will have to deal with the issue. As for the future, you have a point that the public at large may take exception with this and feel any future work is comprimised but people tend to have short memories.

I would imagine that the Seti@HomeII project will deal with this issue as they are going to need to distribute new software anyway. They could easily come up with a mechanism similar to that used by software publishers who tie their registration id to the hardware. This way the work units can't be transferred from machine to machine. I just can't see them pulling this off in the next few months.

I might feel like a loser at times, but... (5, Funny)

ClassicG (138845) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571230)

all I need to do to feel better about myself is to remember that there are people out there who are so bad that they need to cheat at Seti@Home in order to feel like something worth anything.

Join Team Lamb Chop? (2, Interesting)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571233)

With SETI@Home, if you arean't already part of a team, can't you join a team and give them credit for all of your previously completed work units? With the project coming to a close, maybe we could all join Team Lamb Chop and give them a boost to keep them ahead of these cheaters.

Our experiences from running the rc5-56 challenge (5, Interesting)

jukal (523582) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571236)

run at cyberian.org [cyberian.org] some 4 years ago was that people will do anything to get their team/name listed in the first page of the statistics. Some of the people were even arrested by police for hacking into machines to make them crunch rc5 for their name. And it seems this trend is only getting worse. This is kind of sad, because it is not very good for the reputation of such efforts.

it's been happening (5, Insightful)

jokrswild (247507) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571237)

as a participant of the Seti@Home project, this has been happening for some time. For those familiar, check out the stats for Overclockers.com Seti Team, of which i'm a member (insert a "Crunch for us!" flag here). We've suspected our number 1 memeber of cheating, but we have no proof. His numbers as of late were usually 0, until a few of our other memebers caught up. His Work Unit production started being upwards 300 or 400 a day.

People tend to loose sight of the fact that Seti@Home is for scientific purposes, and get caught up in the statisitics of it all. I'm in to the statisitics, so i'll load more computers with the Seti@Home client, not cheat.

Re:it's been happening (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571570)

His numbers as of late were usually 0, until a few of our other memebers caught up. His Work Unit production started being upwards 300 or 400 a day.

for how long was his production zero? he may have been saving up work units during that time.

Re:it's been happening (1)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571626)

People tend to loose sight of the fact that Seti@Home is for scientific purposes, and get caught up in the statisitics of it all.

Perhaps it is time that these distributed computing projects made the statistics a bit more anonymous, to weed out the ego-strokers. That way, the people participating would be doing so purely for the scientific purposes, and would have no motivation for cheating.

Sure, that might turn away some people, but it would go a long way toward making the results more accurate.

Google Toolbar version. (3, Interesting)

hopbine (618442) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571250)

I havent seen any /. comments about the Google version of this. My office computer runs IE and has a Google toolbar. The other day it downloaded a trial version of combined computing, in this case the computing was to be on behalf of the "Folding@Home Distributed Computing" I wonder if Google will be hacked.

It's easy to stop. Don't publish statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571258)

(other than the total work done by everyone in the project). People doing it for the right reasons don't care where they sit in the stats.

Re:It's easy to stop. Don't publish statistics (1)

logic7 (462356) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571323)

Participating in a project like this isn't simply about good reasons and bad reasons. I guess that many participants like both the competition *and* being involved in a project thats useful for the public.

Not publishing statistics would (of course) scare those people off. and even those just interested in helping the SETI project may still want to see statistics, because statistics are cool. :-)

Ironcly (4, Interesting)

isorox (205688) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571271)

I'm researching seti for a final year comp sci project, and I've just handed in a draft about how its been secure, but how my distributed foobar will be open, and therfore more secure.

(dunno how to make it secure yet though)

Cheating is a big thing, as you can sell your work units on ebay!

500 units @ 25 euros [ebay.co.uk]
and http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&it em=2064169353 and
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem& it em=2064990327

what about peer review? (5, Insightful)

caveat (26803) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571274)

if i were one of the reviewers of this work for publication, and i even heard a whisper about cheating, i'd pack the whole pile of results up and ship them straight back as invalid.
if this is /serious/ scientific research, there should be absolutely zero tolerance for cheating, and any team even suspected of it should be summarily disqualified and have all their results tossed - not out of fairness for the competitors, but for the simple sake of scientific integrity...you can't have people cooking the books and then expect legitimate results.

Re:what about peer review? (1)

Shimbo (100005) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571464)

if i were one of the reviewers of this work for publication, and i even heard a whisper about cheating, i'd pack the whole pile of results up and ship them straight back as invalid.

Yes. But there won't be much interesting to publish until and unless they get a positive signal. Whilst the actions of cheaters are deplorable, in the end they aren't that significant.

Consider, there have to be enough hacked clients around to get a reasonable probablity that the same fake client get to process the data n times, getting the same bad, positive result.

Even then all that happens is that the SETI folks rerun the analysis of the segment in question on trusted machines, find there's nothing there, then go back to sleep.

Re:what about peer review? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571520)

any team even suspected of it should be summarily disqualified and have all their results tossed

all the teams are cheating. go look for it.

there, should all the results produced by teams be thrown out?

internal peer review already (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571586)

The farmed out processing only seeks candidate signals. When one is found it is re-processed by the central site to verify and interpret it. This is sciencific re-produceability in action. I dont know the exact number, but there have been several dozen false-positives so far, e.g. overlooked satellites quasars and the such.

One possible response... (5, Insightful)

Alsee (515537) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571277)

With the competition?s close just two months away

Seti@home may just sit back and silently allow these people to continue putting work into cheating, then at the close of the copmpetition throw out all bogus results.

Sort of getting revenge by letting them waste their time for another two months.

-

Why Cheat? (5, Funny)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571280)

We're cheating because some 133t script-kiddie beamed a message to your solar system, some 50,000 of your years ago.

Only by perverting your Seti@home results will we prevent you from discovering our advanced, trans-lightspeed, galaxy-spanning civilization -- and from discovering that despite our accomplishments, our civilization will fall unless we conquer your planet for water/slaves/Kentucky-Fried-Human (please pick one).

Naturally, as an Alien Commader, I must gloatingly reveal our plans, with the excuse that you puny humans are too primitive to stop us even if you do know.

PS: That Orson Welles broadcast 64 years ago today wasn't a hoax. We got to him just in time.

Re:Why Cheat? (2)

MartyC (85307) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571397)

As Kang once said... "Your superior intellect is no match for our primitive weapons."

Re:Why Cheat? (0)

MarkGriz (520778) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571658)

Only by perverting your Seti@home results will we prevent you from discovering our advanced, trans-lightspeed, galaxy-spanning civilization

It's sad too see that even civilizations far more advanced than ours still have problems with spammers.

Oh...you said galaxy-SPANNING. Nevermind.

I'm confused... (5, Funny)

Frnak (556880) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571287)

Wasn't seti@home just about scoring high work units?

And what is this extraterrestial stuff people are going on about?

Ramifications for other distributed projects? (3, Interesting)

Sherloqq (577391) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571290)

I wonder how this will affect other distributed projects, such as the cancer search.
Apparently any time there is a prize involved, people are willing to forgo their ethics
and the ulterior goals in favor of money. What would happen if this sort of cheating were
uncovered in the cancer project? Will it undermine its reputation and credibility, even
if only the stats were to have been sabotaged and not the results themselves? I'm sure
that people would start peeping "Well, we can't trust those results now, can we?" And all
those CPU cycles would have been wasted, after all.

Old news (2)

djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571300)

...inflated stats were being turned in years ago. This 'cheating' is hardly new. SETI must have grown tired trying to stay ahead of it with new versions and now just turns a deaf ear.

Re:Old news (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571367)

Why does it seem someone /always/ has to play the This Is Old News card? Yippie for you dipshit, you heard about it a while ago, here's your prize. You've contributed zero. Hopefully you've at least made yourself feel better.

I will contribute something to this. Another scenario of cheating goes like so:

Set up a batch script to download multiple (like 100) work units at a time, each is 350k or so.
Another script steps through each unit, completing the work required.
When all units are done, result files are only 10k per work unit.
Prior to submitting, make a copy of the result files.
Proceed with submitting the results.

Repeat the process, except next time you're ready to submit, you can re-submit the prior 100 units as well.
As long as you maintain a copy of the completed units, you can keep submitting them.
Don't know if there's a limit on the frequency or quantity of resubmits, but your results go up exponentially: 100,200,300,500,800,1300,2100...

Re:Old news (1, Flamebait)

djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571439)

Maybe because it's true. And maybe we want something more than re-heated tripe. 3 years hence, and now the so-called editors here think they've caught a rare species.

Can't you think of a more original tactic to slam me with? C'mon....I can take it. Take your time, you'll come up with something. I'm here for you & I feel your pain :)

AC seems so much the label, eh? Talk about being opportunistic.

It's too competitive. (5, Insightful)

pommaq (527441) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571308)


Listen to the guy in the article:
"Basically, three years of work to get to the top of the teams and eight million WU later, it looks as though the top team is going to be beaten by cheating," said Nealon.

Sure, the stats are fun. But once you make a competition of it, people are going to start cheating - doesn't matter if the only reward is seeing your name at the top of your group in some brute force number-crunching exercise. Even the legal users care mostly about where they are in the stats, not about the point of the project itself. I mean, look at the popularity of ProgressQuest.
If I were SETI@Home, I'd remove the stats. Sure, you'd lose humungous amounts of CPU power when the $r1p7 kiddies abandon the project, but if you're getting millions of WUs of flawed data sent back to you, you need to do something drastic. Besides, they've got a pretty strong brand by now, and I'm sure a lot of users would stick with them just for the good of the cause, not just for the dubious honor of being at the top of the stats.

Anti-cheating Petition (2)

JDax (148242) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571326)

You may sign here if you agree!

http://www.teamprimerib.com/seti/

Simple solution (5, Insightful)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571332)

When the hand out the work unit, put a unit ID number on it, and sign it with a hash.

If they see the same ID being submitted by more than one system, zero the work unit totals for both machines.

BOOM! Cheating now carries a very high price.

Bah... (0)

elixx (242653) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571333)

Nealon says that would mean team members producing this much work must have 1250GHz of processing power at their disposal dedicated purely to the project. In human terms, thatâ(TM)s around 1,250 1GHz computers doing nothing but running the SETI@home screensaver.

Apparently humans aren't capable of basic division...

I was a little annoyed a handful of other details, but I don't feel like disecting the article...

Re:Bah... (1)

grahamlee (522375) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571382)

Actually, to do "nothing but [run] the SETI@home screensaver", a computer also has to load Windows, a VGA (at least) device driver, HDD drivers, etc. So "1250GHz of processing power...dedicated purely to the project" would require somewhere closer to 1300 1GHz computers, IMHO. You've also got to consider the architecture of those computers; PowerPC running at 1GHz!=IA32 running at 1GHz!=Z80 running at 1GHz etc.

*sigh* (1)

R-2-RO (766) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571334)

Argh! Damn cheaters! Do they actually feel some sense of accomplishment? I don't see how since Seti isn't about raw number crunching. *sigh* I will never understand what 'fun' they get out of cheating especially in online gaming.. but that's another story.

Seti@home (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571359)

Is this the first documented case of an alien conspiracy?

EVIDENCE ? (2)

Martin S. (98249) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571376)


It seems to me the claims of cheating are just speculation, there is no evidence beyond the reported fact that a 'leading' team has emerged. Indeed the 'cheat' as descibed of bringing more machines to bear on the problem does not seem like cheating to me. It looks like bad loosers to me. It certainly has no negative impact on the scientific integrity of the resuls as some have suggested.

Re:EVIDENCE ? (3, Informative)

JDax (148242) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571424)

The problem is not "bringing more machines to bear". A big issue has to do with those purposely re-submitting the same, already-processed results, over and over again, without ever having or needing to download a new WU.

Read this thread [infopop.net] and this one [infopop.net] and do try to follow the links to the graphs showing the suspicious results.

And do sign the petition against cheating here [teamprimerib.com] .

SETI will fail... (1)

little1973 (467075) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571383)

I do not want to sound Trollish, but SETI is a complete waste of time, IMHO. I believe the aliens do not use radio waves for communication for the sole reason that radio waves are just too slow.

Just calculate the time which is needed for light to cover the distance between Sun and Earth. It's 8 minutes and the Sun is just 150 million km away. I think there is a more advanced communication mechanism which waits for us to discover, because radio waves are clearly unusable for great distances.

Re:SETI will fail... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571500)

Uh, thats not the point. The point is that they may have used one of the wavelengths at some point in their civilization and the broadcasts are just now reaching us, allowing us to detect that they exist. Much like how our television broadcasts are sent in to space, and an alien civilization might catch an episode of I Love Lucy, and think, "Where the fuck did this come from?"

Re:SETI will fail... (5, Insightful)

Contact (109819) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571545)

You're assuming a hypothetical "alien race" which operates on the same sort of timescales that we do. If they "live" a few orders of magnitude more slowly, then radio waves suddenly become (to them) a few orders of magnitude faster...

Bear in mind that even amongst cultures on earth, perceptions of timescales vary. I've heard the phrase "In Europe they think 100 miles is a long way; In America they think 100 years is a long time". Imposing human values on a hypothetical alien race is somewhat anthropomorphic...

Re:SETI will fail... (1)

Dexter's Laboratory (608003) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571597)

Well if they are going to contact us, isn't it likely that they will be on the safe side regarding us knowing how to pick up the message? Radio should be the most basic form of communication in space.

Re:SETI will fail... (1)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571620)

Well, if the alien civilization is reasonably advanced, they'll realize that not every world out there is as advanced as they are, and might beam "low-tech" alternative messages across the universe for the fledgling races that still haven't figured out how to get off their own planets. We did something like this with Voyager, broadcasting some basic information about us to anyone listening.

Anyway, they might also be using some ultra-fast wormhole/subspace method of communicating (substitute your own sci-fi gadget -- you get the idea), but it's not like we'd know, since we still haven't built any receivers to pick it up.

folding at home (1)

nounderscores (246517) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571393)

If we don't get to try out alien cuisine in my lifetime because people hack seti@home I will be mildly annoyed.

If my lifetime is shortened so I never live try alien cuisine because somebody hacked folding@home MY ESTATE WILL LAUNCH A SERIOUS CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT!

Who is with me?

in an ironic way (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571404)

through this cheating the Seti@home project has proved that there is intelligent life in the universe... albeiet life with the ethics of the undead....

top info from Univ of Amsterdam clusters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571453)

Hmmm, two Univ. of Amsterdam 4-way Itanium clusters have been doing nothing but seti@home for a couple of weeks now.

thea:~> uname -a
Linux thea.sara.nl 2.4.18-xfs #2 SMP Wed Mar 20 10:45:45 CET 2002 ia64 unknown
thea:~> tp d 5

PID USER PRI NI SIZE RSS SHARE STAT %CPU %MEM TIME COMMAND
552 jaap 18 1 17936 17M 1936 R N 99.9 0.2 12974m setiathome
560 jaap 18 1 16528 16M 1888 R N 99.9 0.1 13034m setiathome
574 jaap 18 1 16480 16M 1936 R N 99.9 0.1 12969m setiathome

/proc/cpuinfo shows 4 cpus, 733 MHz, Itanium IA-64.
free shows 8 GB ram each machine.

They (SETI@Home) could fix this easily (2, Interesting)

fudgefactor7 (581449) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571488)

Simply by refusing more than 4 WU a day per person. (6 hours for a 1Ghz PC to do one unit x 4 units = 24 hours.) Add to this if a single unit appears to have been submitted more than, say, 3 times, it will be "suspect" and resent out to be checked and you (the original submitter) will only get credit for it once it passes this second level.

Re:They (SETI@Home) could fix this easily (3, Insightful)

rc-flyer (20492) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571521)

Not a good answer. I personally have about 35 dual cpu systems which are processing Seti@home.

Re:They (SETI@Home) could fix this easily (2, Interesting)

fudgefactor7 (581449) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571627)

Ok, modify the above. Each SETI@Home install has a serial number, each computer has a different SN for it...then each computer can do no more than 4 WU a day. With that, you'd still be putting out the major numbers. (Nice going...!)

This just ruins the reputation for the rest of us (2)

suman28 (558822) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571519)

I have been an avid SETI@home user since its inception. I don't have many work units, but I have never felt the need to cheat, because this is one of the few things that I am interested in. Why are people trying to ruin it for the rest of us? I know cheaters can fake a signal to get their 15 min of fame, but I am sure that there are ways of finding out that they cheated.

More info. (2, Informative)

Faile (465836) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571539)

While the article does a fair job explaning about the possible patches/hacks here's [hccnet.nl] a little more detailed version, and a few old usenet postings from S@H staff on the subject.

a scientific paper with one million authors? (2)

peter303 (12292) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571573)

Some maga-project papers like the discovery of a new physics particle or sequencing a geonome have author lists over a hundred because so many people work on them. When they discover a signal from an alien intelligence, will they a milion authors on that paper? :-)

Another Problem With Cheaters (2, Interesting)

Tremblay99 (534187) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571602)

A while back, S@H was having so many bogus results sent in (and work units sent out to cheaters), Berkeley massively scaled back the bandwidth alloted to the project. The result was that people who didn't cheat and weren't compulsive users (people with caches / willing to retry their connections all day) couldn't get new work units. One of S@H's responses was to make the clients do more math, effectively slowing the clients down. The other was to close down some of the cheating loopholes.

It's unfortunate that the stats helped make the project so popular ... since they also made it a target for people needing to inflate their numbers at any cost.

Which work unit has the highest score (2)

Skapare (16644) | more than 11 years ago | (#4571633)

I'd like to see stats on which work unit has the highest score. That is, which single individual work unit (described as the instant of time in which it was originally captured) has been returned most often. Or better yet, which work unit has the highest return/fetch ratio.

SETI NonResponse: That's the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4571640)

I quit SETI long ago over their failure to respond to problems. If they want our distributed computing power than they should properly distribute their problem resolution management.
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