NewsJuly 13, 2016 @ 8:31 AM

‘Pokemon Go,’ Popular New AR Game, Can Load Malware

“Pokemon Go” seems to have swept into the public’s heart in a big way. The augmented reality game has proven itself to be a wild success with consumers — this week, anyway. But there are problems.

‘Pokemon Go’ Has iOS Problems

One user noted in a Tumblr post that the iOS version of the game does a little sidestep when users sign in with a Google account: It asks for (albeit obliquely) and gets full access to that account. That means the game can read your email, send email, access Google drive documents, look at search and Maps navigation history, and access any private photos you may store in Google.

Rather than have an ulterior motive of a massive info-stealing campaign, it may be that the creators just used some sloppy programming. Instead of using the OAuth mechanism to get only the necessary information, they went to the extreme.

Android Has Issues, Too

On the Android app, things get hairy. It allows the side-loading of an app from the raw Android application package (APK) files without having the system check the program. Because the global rollout has been slowed due to overloaded servers, some Android users will download “Pokemon Go” from some sketchy places and then install the APK files because they cannot find the legitimate app supported in their area.

Cybercriminals are using these APK files as a way to transport and install their own malware. Security firm Proofpoint noted that “this specific APK was modified to include the malicious remote-access tool (RAT) called DroidJack (also known as SandroRAT), which would virtually give an attacker full control over a victim’s phone.”

While SlashGear outlined the actual permissions that the malware seeks, most users will not be able to distinguish the standard version of “Pokemon Go” from an unsecure one. In fact, they may not even know that they have been hijacked with a malicious version of the game.

Enterprises Beware

“Pokemon Go” can be a liability for the enterprise. If one of these infected devices links up to the enterprise’s network, other connected devices would then be at risk.

It seems prudent and necessary for an enterprise to ban the use of this app on corporate networks entirely until the situation gets resolved. As it now stands, “Pokemon Go” is a popular threat vector that cannot be ignored.

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Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.