Pokemon Go is slowly being rolled out in different countries around the world, but the game is yet to be launched in most places.
Anticipated users have found a way to download the game using an APK file in countries where Pokemon Go is not available. But it also invites threats and opens gates for hackers to exploit any loopholes created by the unofficial file download.
Pokemon Go is officially available in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, U.K. Italy, Spain, Portugal and the U.S., but the game developer Niantic will be expanding to other countries soon. Until then, side-loading the augmented reality-based game is gaining a lot of traction. There are several players downloading the game from unofficial sources to get it to work on their Android and iOS smartphones in countries like India, Netherlands, Russia, Japan and China.
It was recently reported that side-loading a Pokemon Go APK on your Android and iOS smartphone increases the risks of scams and malware. Hackers are using the game as a cyber crime tool, but there are ways users can protect their devices.
International Business Times, India spoke to Dimitri Sirota, who has more than ten years of experience as a data privacy expert and is also the CEO of BigID, and traced the risks associated with Pokemon Go's unofficial downloads in countries where it hasn't been released yet.
Dome of the APK packages from non-official sites have been modified according to Proofpoint with malware and remote access software exposing users to unnecessary vulnerabilities," Sirota told IBTimes, India.
Sirota alerted players of various tools such as Lookout that scans "apps on a mobile device looking for suspicious packages or activities".
In another report by Indian Express, Symantec found that malware authors are circulating a fake app which looks legitimate with Pokemon Go login screen, when it actually opens gates for hackers to access data on the phone. Cybercriminals are also offering free PokeCoins to users by asking them to fill out surveys and download certain apps, but they are nothing more than scams.
Players are advised to stay clear of such scams and avoid clicking on anything suspicious. Avoid fake Pokemon Go apps and it is best to stay put until the official app launches in your respective country.
Existing players must update the Pokemon Go apps as the developer has pushed out a fix that removes request for full access to Google account. Other tips to stay secure is by choosing a strong password for Pokemon Go account and avoid using game cheats that are circulated on social media without proper authentication from its developer.