Are video games harmful to players? You may be tempted to think so if you’ve read the recent stories about the new mobile game Pokémon Go. In case you don’t remember, Pokémon was popular in the ‘90s. The yellow rodent named Pikachu is now making a comeback and taking the world by storm in the franchise’s most popular app to date. With its popularity are some safety issues you should be aware, especially if you or your children have this free app.
What is Pokémon Go?
Source: Vulcan Post
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that combines the real world with virtual reality. Available on iOS and Android devices, the game uses your phone’s GPS and clock to find out when you are using the game so that various Pokémon "appear" on your phone screen as if they are around you. When you see them, you catch them. More and more Pokémon "appear" and you have to catch them as well. The aim of the game is to make you explore your surroundings and move around to capture these creatures – all 151 of them. You can utilize in-app purchases to help you find more Pokémon, which is how the manufacturer makes money off the free download.
Issue #1: Robberies
Unfortunately, the new offering from Nintendo hasn’t been all fun and games. Pokémon Go has been associated with robberies in Missouri. At approximately 2 a.m. on July 10, 2016, police responded to an armed robbery in O’Fallon. Authorities found four suspects in a BMW in possession of a handgun. It is believed that the suspects robbed up to a dozen victims in St. Charles and St. Louis counties before they were caught. The suspects, all in their teens, had used Pokémon Go to lure their victims and then rob them.
The teens were able to use the game’s lure module, which attracts Pokémon to a specific location. Passersby can use this module to not only find Pokémon, but to also find others who are playing the game. Police believe that’s how the suspects used the module. They would lure the players and then rob them. Fortunately, the suspects – one juvenile and three adults – were apprehended by police.
Issue #2: Malware
Source: The Bit Bag
It’s not easy being popular. Pokémon Go is being targeted by malware creators who intend to hijack your phone. Researchers found a Pokémon Go app that was infected with DroidJack, a remote access tool. This would allow hackers to take full control of your phone. So far, there have been no reports of the malware affecting any users, but those who have Pokémon Go downloaded on their device should be aware that the malware does exist and can infect a phone or tablet. It has been found in the form of an APK file on an online file storage device.
The good news is that the malware hasn’t been found on the app in the Google Play store, so nobody has unwittingly downloaded it off of there. However, it could be soon, as the authors of the malware are trying to profit off the game’s popularity. Pokémon Go is only available in the United States, New Zealand and Australia. Server capacity issues have been delaying an international releases, which means that impatient users wanting to download the app are seeking out unofficial versions of the game. These unofficial versions are the ones that are infected, and there’s no way to tell if you have installed malware. You would have to compare the permissions of both the official and unofficial versions of the game – not an easy task.
How You Can Protect Your Children
It’s easy to see how these two issues can harm your child - and privacy. If your child has a mobile device and you allow him or her to download apps, here are some safety precautions: