Is Pokémon Go A Serious Security Threat?

August 8, 2016

11:45 am

Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm. It’s been a long time since an app has sent the whole world into a mobile gaming craze. Despite it not even being officially released in a number of countries, there are already millions of people downloading it. It may seem like a harmless app where you capture flying monsters from your smartphone, but many people have raised concerns.

They claim that Pokémon Go has evolved into a security threat, both online and offline. In fact, a Gizmodo article reported on the fact Iran banned the app entirely over security concerns. The country didn’t reveal the specific nature of these security threats, but they said they were talking with the developers.

Becoming a Target

The main security threat that comes from Pokémon Go is people become less aware of their surroundings. They're walking around with their expensive smartphones in full view. This makes them targets for thieves. In London, a group of three kids were robbed at gunpoint because they were walking around playing Pokemon Go.

There are also numerous other stories of people losing their phones to theft because they were walking around playing without paying attention. Pokemon Go has quickly developed into a personal security threat because people aren't heading the games most prevalent warning: be aware of your surroundings.

Malware Concerns

Pokemon Go has also been flagged for malware. Some users have reported that Pokémon Go is easily infected by malware. These malicious programs, when installed, have the potential to track any personal information entered into the phone. They can track your button strokes and where you have visited.

Over time the sender of malware can build up a file of personal information about you. They can use it to access your bank account and steal your private information. The same thing happened in the first few days of April 2016, with malware stealing $4 million of customer money from 22 US and two Canadian banks.


GPS Tracking

On top of that, you have GPS tracking. The way that Pokémon Go works is that it uses your phone’s built-in GPS chip to track where you are in the world. This is necessary for matching you up with gyms, wild Pokémon, and Pokéstops. But with Niantic Labs having access to your information, they can easily gather data relating to the behavior of consumers. The level of tracking and what they can do with it borders on creepy.

The CEO of Sell Max, a company helping people to sell their cars, said:

“It isn’t inconceivable that Pokemon Go could be tracking wherever you happen to be going. It’s like a company placing a GPS tracker on your car without you knowing, so if you’re playing Pokemon Go you have to be aware of this. Are you comfortable with that?”

So Why Worry?

These security concerns are all valid, but you don’t necessarily have to stop using the popular mobile game. The best advice for anyone already playing Pokémon Go is to not perform highly personal tasks on the same device. For example, don’t access your bank account on the same phone.

It’s highly unlikely that the makers of Pokémon Go are going to have some sort of evil master plan in place, but it doesn’t mean you should get careless. Basic actions like this can save your personal information and prevent theft should your phone be infected with malware.

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Victoria Heckstall is a professional writer who specializes in internet marketing and business topics.