Cyber experts warn of security breaches playing Pokemon Go


KUALA LUMPUR: Cyber security experts have raised the alarm over mobile phone game app Pokemon Go, stating that details captured while chasing Pokemon could reveal a building’s every nook and corner and the player’s personality.

National Defence University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Tengku Mohd Sembok said no other app had so far been able to capture such information in detail.

“The information is collected into one centre. It can be hacked. Or it can be used by any government.

“It can be used by IS, drug lords and love scam agents. For instance the Petronas Twin Towers: through the game, every nook and corner of the building is recorded.”

He said the app was able to profile every player.

“Through the items at home, the app is able to gather information on whether the person hangs around in the hall or in the room, and the books the player reads and the relationship the player has with his parents or partners,” he said.

Tengku Mohamed, who lectures and carries out research on cyber security, was speaking after attending the International Conference on Security, Technology and Intelligence at the National Defence University.

He said the Pokemon Go app completed the four dimensions needed to know about a country or an individual’s life.

The first dimension is the location of the player, the second is space which captures every nook and corner of the location.

The third dimension is the volume which looks at the surrounding products in detail and the fourth dimension is an individual’s personality, for instance the player’s hang-outs.

“It captures every sensitive image of the office, household products and personal information from the layout of the bedrooms and toilets as well as the products used.”

He said in today’s world, information was the most expensive commodity.

“Imagine if someone has information on the prime minister’s residence in Thailand, Malaysia or other countries. That is powerful data.

“The app can single-handedly collect much more data than the CIA, the US intelligence agency.”

For companies, they can profile according to a person’s profession.

“Like me, I am a professor, and they will know what are the needs of a professor in Malaysia and what sort of products a professor uses compared with a clerk or others.”

However, Tengku Mohamed does not recommend Pokemon Go be banned as that would be too drastic.

He said education and creating awareness was the best defence.

He said everyone should be made aware of these dangers because once your information is in the digital world, it can never be erased.

Dr Mohamed Fadzil Che Din, another cyber security expert from the National Defence University, said it was the same with Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“These companies’ market value is in the billions because of the data they have.

“It is a form of crowd-sourcing.The users of these social media apps are like unpaid workers snapping pictures of information for these companies.”

He said Malaysia should follow the footsteps of China to build its own search and social media networking channels.

“Foreigners will not have access to the country’s information. We need to give incentives to Malaysians to come up with our own search engines.”

On Aug 16, authorities in Kuwait and United Arab Emirates warned of security dangers in playing Pokemon GO.

Users must resist the urge to point camera phones at Pikachu popping out in front of the Kuwaiti Emir’s palace, mosques, oil facilities or military bases, Kuwait’s Interior Ministry said.

The authorities said the danger in playing this game was that it involved the player photographing areas nearby with smartphones which transferred the pictures of the sites to third parties.

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed for iOS and Android devices. It was initially released in selected countries in July 2016.