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15 Jul 2016

Pokemon Go: What are the risks?

Pokemon Go, for those who don’t know, is a new online gaming phenomenon that has taken the world by storm overnight.

Based on the Pokemon anime TV series that was originally aired in 1997, the mobile app uses augmented reality to allow users to hunt for Pokemon hidden in the ‘real world’, and uses Google Maps to create a real life playing experience for users that incorporates actual landmarks and places and converts them into parts of the game.

Released in July 2016 and made available in the UK on 14th July, the app has sky rocketed and has surpassed many high volume apps in terms of usage.

Downloads of Pokemon Go are double that of popular dating app Tinder, and daily usage of the app in the US is higher than Whatsapp and other popular social media channels such as Instagram and Snapchat (https://www.similarweb.com/blog/pokemon-go).

But as the new online gaming app storms the market, what do you need to know about the risks posed?
Sharing Location Settings

Your success on the game is based on your ability to use Google Maps to find Pokemon. Because of this, you must enable location settings for the app, making it more likely for other users to find you.

The location element of the game poses particular threats when criminal users use the app to lure young or naive people into a vulnerable situation, as happened in the US recently where criminals lured players to a remote location to rob them at gunpoint.

Vulnerability Threat to Children

Although the app can be praised for incorporating physical activity into online gaming, children are now out roaming the streets at all times, playing the game.

The game also incorporates battles in ‘Gyms’ at certain points of interest, and both child and adult users of the app can be found battling each other via their mobile phones in physical locations.

This makes children extremely vulnerable, being out in sometimes unfamiliar surroundings all to try and compete in a game. Additionally, it poses a threat of robbery as users are publicly walking round with smartphones, increasing the likelihood of being mugged.

Productivity

As the game is played in real-time, any inactivity on the app means you’re potentially missing out on progressing within the game.

The game thrives on your activity, and so this compels users to want to be logged in as often as possible and play more and more. When this comes to a work or school environment, this could have a massive impact on the productivity of users, who are now unable to talk about anything else except the latest Pokemon they caught.

As a result of this, Pokemon Go has now been added to Smoothwall’s ‘Online Games’ category, meaning you can now block usage of the app on your network.

As for other security concerns, it still isn’t clear whether the Google authentication actually gives access to users personal information, but we’ll be sure to watch out for it.

As of yet, there have been no reports of the game being hacked, but of course this does pose a huge risk both in terms of data security and further vulnerability of the players being potentially tricked into dangerous situations.

If you have any other concerns regarding Pokemon Go, please feel free to contact us and we’ll look into this for you.

Feature image source: Huffington post UK

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