A surge of Pokemon Go-related apps is out to steal your data

A throng of unofficial apps has tried to piggyback on the title’s success

Privacy fears about the Pokemon Go app have been largely addressed, but dozens of other apps that piggy back on the popular game have raised further concerns.

Since the game launched last week, a swarm of unofficial apps has emerged and is trying to capitalize on the title’s success. And many are hungry for your personal data.

These unofficial apps have been offering cheats, tips and even songs from the hit game. But in exchange, they demand permission to access sensitive data on your phone, said Chad Salisbury, a security engineer with RiskIQ, which monitors mobile malware.

If permission is granted, the apps can collect contacts lists, photos and even login credentials to social media accounts. They can even take control of a phone’s camera and microphone.

RiskIQ has detected 172 unofficial Pokemon Go-related apps. Salisbury estimated that over half of them suspiciously gather more user information than they need.

Any data collected could be traded for profit. A developer could sell it to legitimate marketing firms or on the black market, he warned.

Salisbury found an app called “Fake GPS for Pokemon Go” on the Google Play Store that essentially allows a player to cheat. But the app also asks for permission to send SMS text messages.

In a worst case scenario, the app could secretly shoot off SMS messages to a premium rate number, generating money for the developers.

It’s no surprise if unscrupulous people are trying to cash-in on the Pokemon Go craze. Hit mobile games usually result in copycat titles, some of which carry Trojans. Hackers have also been known to clone legitimate banking apps and use them to trick users in handing over their data.

In the case of Pokemon Go, users who download the unofficial apps are likely unaware that they may be handing over access to sensitive data, Salisbury said. They may think products like the Pokemon Go music player are harmless.

“Who doesn’t want to listen to the Pokemon Go theme song?” he said. But users should be watchful over the permissions the apps ask for. 

Fifty-seven of these unofficial Pokemon Go apps were found on AppBrain, a third-party Android market. Others were found on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. 

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?