Pokémon Go, a sensational app riddled with Cyber and Real-World Risks

Pokemon Risks

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[su_spoiler title=”NOW AVAILABLE” open=”yes” style=”fancy” icon=”plus-circle”]As of August 6, 2016, Pokemon Go is finally available in the Philippines.[/su_spoiler]

Pokemon Go rose to being the world’s most sensational and popular mobile application. According to SensorTower, it even surpassed Tinder, Twitter and Facebook in terms of users.

pokemon go usage comparison

Daily Time Spent in Pokémon GO by Average iOS User, Compared to Top Mobile Apps, Sensor Tower

We managed to play the game during its first 12 hours until Niantic decided to region-lock the application. We loved it, and got ourselves a Bulbasaur as starter Pokemon on my LG G5, and a Pikachu on my Zuk Z1. As of this writing, the application may only be accessed by people in less than 20 countries. To know these countries and the respective launch date, you may check out this website. And yes, as of this writing too, the application is not yet available in the Philippines. We are part of the hopeful ones when we posted a related article on this link.


A few days ago, we received a study conducted by Symantec regarding the risks involved in installing and playing this game. You may have heard about cyber security and real-world risks this game posits, but we’re here to give you the drill down.

Cyber Security Risks of Pokemon Go

Many people – including Filipinos – still dared to download an APK version of the application. A lot also installed the game without paying attention to the nitty-gritty details of its app permissions and terms of use. There are inherent risks on the aforementioned user actions, and yet, most seemed to ignore or never dared to even scrutinize.

On the case of APK version of Pokemon Go, not all APK versions download on the internet are riddled with trojans or backdoor hacks. Early versions of the game especially from APK mirror are likely safe, but the ones made available 2 hours after its official release possibly have embedded malicious content.


According to Symantec, researchers from Proofpoint discovered a Trojanized version of the app. Some redirect users to online scams, thus exposing themselves to identity and financial security issues.

[su_button url=”https://community.norton.com/en/blogs/norton-protection-blog/risks-third-party-app-stores” target=”blank” style=”3d” background=”#820c0a” color=”#ffffff” size=”8″ wide=”yes” center=”yes” radius=”round” icon=”icon: camera-retro”]When downloading APK version of the app, be sure to click this link for list of trusted sites and sources.[/su_button]

Trojans sit in the app without your knowledge. A code, hidden underneath the app’s filesystem, is waiting to be triggered by a user. This is definitely risky and can put your phone and even its content at risk.

Code project

Check its Privacy Risks and Terms of Service

When installing or downloading applications like Pokemon Go, it is always recommended to always evaluate the policies and permission documentation attached to it. Most users neglect to evaluate the permissions being requested to be accessed by applications prior to installation. Most of us usually just tap the install button, and proceed without understanding the risks involved.

According to the article published by The Verge, they exposed the fact that Pokemon Go is automatically granting permission to read Gmail of users. Both iOS and Android users are exposed to this, and while this isn’t necessarily a risk per se, the fact that the app “can read” your email is a definitely concerning.

Niantic released a statement saying that they are aware of the issue and working on a fix. While you wait for this fix to come out, you can revoke permissions for Pokémon Go from your Google account on this page.

And yes, how can we all forget this – one of the greatest lies we are still doing is clicking that “I UNDERSTAND” button below the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. For those of you who tried to install the application, there is one notable issue included in its terms of service.

[su_quote cite=”Pokemon GO Terms of Service”]Welcome to the Pokémon GO video game services, which are accessible via the Niantic, Inc. (“Niantic”) mobile device application (the “App”). To make these Pokémon GO Terms of Service (the “Terms”) easier to read, our video game services, the App, and our websites located at https://pokemongo.nianticlabs.com and https://www.pokemongolive.com (the “Site”) are collectively called the “Services.” Please read carefully these Terms, our Trainer Guidelines, and our Privacy Policy, because they govern your use of our Services.[/su_quote]


One notable issue in the terms of service located inside of the app is that the links to the privacy policy and the Pokémon GO Trainer guidelines were not hyperlinked, and you have to agree to all three of them before gameplay.

Here are all three policies online so you can become informed before you download and agree.

Your Life Matters

While you may be covered by Insurance for getting injured or dying while playing Pokemon (except when the risk happened while violating a law), it is still best to play game responsibly.


People died and have accidentally killed people while playing Pokemon Go. There is also a chance that you’re exposing yourself to being treated maliciously because the game uses GPS. You can catch “monsters” with Pokemon, but your life may also be “caught” by it.

Injuries, robberies, car crash may happen, so you better be careful. Poke-tip: If you see a Pokemon on your screen, get to a safe place without losing the monsters in sight, and catch them. You don’t actually have to get near it, and make yourself vulnerable to risks.

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Giancarlo Viterbo is a Filipino Technology Journalist, blogger and Editor of gadgetpilipinas.net, He is also a Geek, Dad and a Husband. He knows a lot about washing the dishes, doing some errands and following instructions from his boss on his day job. Follow him on twitter: @gianviterbo and @gadgetpilipinas.

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