I play ONLY against the AI so I never have to worry about the cheat thing. People keep telling me "you don't know what you are missing". Yeah well, I don't need to know. I enjoy the heck out of the game without ever making human contact. And I don't miss it at all.
As far the human contact goes, there's almost no need to communicate with your opponent(s) ingame. Stick to 1v1 and you don't need to talk at all. I just mute people if it's too much chatter/trash talk. Discussing the game as a spectator though will give you a better understanding of how deep this game goes. I think both aspects are fun, but you can just stick with the former if you really think the people here are awful. Hell, it's a fair assessment a lot of the time!
You'll get sick of smashing the cpu and grinning at the megadeath notifications eventually. Probably soon. Keep in mind a few things when/if you venture into competitive defcon. There's a steep learning curve to real games and sometimes a glacial pace. A high-level game is generally an hour and half. They can take well over 2 hours. It'll be hard to adapt after spending a lot of time with the cpu. If you do make the leap I highly recommend spectating a few games between great players. Watching recs also works, if you really want to avoid people. It's a good antidote to the horrible examples you're going to see from the cpu.
This Laika thing was a huge scandal and really sad, but I don't think it's very common nor do I think it will become common. Pub games just aren't worth it. If a major tourney gets off the ground again we may need to discuss countermeasures, but for the moment I'm not concerned about it.