News: Despite Recent Updates, Pokémon GO Is Still Vulnerable to Hackers

Despite Recent Updates, Pokémon GO Is Still Vulnerable to Hackers

Despite a round of updates to Pokémon GO that patched and eliminated location spoofing, the game still has a difficult time dealing with the most hardcore cheaters. Like weeds on a grassy lawn, third-party bot makers still remain the biggest thorn in Niantic's side and continue to thrive despite the developer's best efforts to root them out.

While the latest updates have blocked users from running modded versions of the game, like Pokemon GO++, that feature built-in joysticks to move your player around the map without actually having to walk yourself to get there, the more entrenched hackers have so far proven harder to eradicate.

Gaming the System

Currently, the group of Pokémon GO spoofers that have proven the hardest to dislodge are ones who play the game from their computers. PokeBot.Ninja is one such group, and they're relatively easy to join, though not for free. The bot works on both Windows and Mac OS X, and is backed by a whole community of developers that work around the clock to keep it functioning.

Once you join their community, Pokémon GO becomes automated and gives you total freedom to travel the world to catch and collect Pokémon, leveling yourself and your virtual pets up in the process.

The Root of Niantic's Current Predicament

Niantic's failure to secure its game and servers from hacking back when they first released Pokémon GO is the primary reason for the troubles that are plaguing it now. Anyone who wants to tweak Pokémon GO needs access to the game's Application Programming Interface, or API. This will to enable access from other apps, such as those that map the game, and others that add bots to change the game and make it easier for players to collect and evolve Pokémon.

Subsequent updates and frequent API changes to bar unauthorized apps from accessing its servers have done much to correct this, but the bot industry has grown so profitable that it's become almost impossible to completely get rid of. There are services out there, for example, that are dedicated to accessing Niantic's servers via API hashing keys. Users can buy these keys to catch up to Niantic every time it changes its API to keep cheaters from being cut off.

Services such as these require tremendous amounts of resources to operate, so this gives us a glimpse of the uphill battle Niantic faces in its ongoing battle to rid Pokémon GO of cheaters. Wherever there's money to be made, corruption will closely follow, and it seems like even the magical creature-filled world of Pokémon GO isn't immune to this immutable law of human nature.

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Cover image and screenshots by Amboy Manalo/Gadget Hacks

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