A fake ‘Pokémon Go’ app tricked half a million players into downloading malware

street cars pokemon go taxi rides news pokemongo 3 1200x0
The rapid speed at which Pokémon Go became a global phenomenon made it inevitable that the wildly popular smartphone game would quickly catch the attention of hackers, too.

When Pokémon Go launched in July, it was only available in a few countries, a situation that prompted many of those desperate to try the game to turn to third-party download sites. But some of those Pokémon Go downloads had been injected with malware that allowed hackers to take control of the victim’s smartphone.

Now that most countries’ smartphone users have access to the genuine version of the game through mainstream mobile app stores, the malware-infected versions of Pokémon Go have faded away. Security researchers have, however, found a new problem: hacker-designed apps linked to the game.

Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab has found at least one malware-infected Android app, called Guide for Pokémon Go (shown below), that it says has been downloaded more than half a million times.

guide-to-pokemon-go

Available until recently on the Google Play store, the free app, as its name suggests, explains the augmented-reality game to newcomers and offers tips and tricks on how to become a skilled trainer. But it also contains malware that enables a hacker to take control of the phone.

“Analysis reveals that the app contains a malicious piece of code that downloads rooting malware – malware capable of gaining access to the core Android operating system,” Kaspersky Labs’ Roman Unuchek wrote in a blog post on Wednesday, adding there had so far been “at least 6,000 successful infections.”

The researcher said that while most infections appear to have hit smartphone users in Russia, India, and Indonesia, the fact that the app is in English suggests others users around the world may also be affected.

According to Kaspersky Lab’s Kate Kochetkova, the malware doesn’t immediately activate, though when it does it’ll flood the phone with ads. But worse than that, it can also secretly install additional apps.

“For now, criminals have chosen a relatively mild way to earn money: ads,” Kochetkova said. “Tomorrow, they may decide to increase their income by locking your device and demanding ransom – or stealing money from your bank account.”

For anyone who has the Guide to Pokémon Go app (there are others with the same name but this one is made by an outfit calling itself “Markersel”), Kaspersky Lab suggests immediately deleting it and then running free scanning software to confirm if your device has been infected.

Computing

Windows 10 has two critical vulnerabilities; update now to avoid infection

Microsoft recently alerted users that it patched two critical remote code execution (RCE) "wormable" vulnerabilities, which could have allowed hackers to spread malware to PCs. If you haven't updated Windows 10 yet, get on it.
Gaming

From the very best to the worst, here are all the Pokémon games ranked

With Pokémon Sword and Shield en route to Nintendo Switch later this year, we decided to rank the first seven generations of Pokémon games from best to worst. Which generation made us want to catch 'em all the most?
Mobile

Rooting your Android device is risky. Do it right with our handy guide

Wondering whether to root your Android smartphone or stick with stock Android? Perhaps you’ve decided to do it and you just need to know how? Here, you'll find an explanation and a quick guide on how to root Android devices.
Mobile

Google flags preinstalled malware as hidden threat on millions of Android phones

Google flagged preinstalled malware on Android smartphones as a hidden threat. The team discovered that the Chamois malware was preloaded in 7.4 million Android devices, while the attention was on malware that people downloaded themselves.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Gaming

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.
Gaming

Police warn Raleigh locals of military cosplay at Rainbow Six Siege tournament

This weekend's Rainbow Six Siege Major esports tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina, prompted the local police to give residents a heads-up about cosplayers, who could come to the convention center in fake military cosplay.
Gaming

Nintendo is reportedly trading revised Switch console for older model for free

If you recently bought a Nintendo Switch, you may be eligible for a free exchange for a revised model with better battery life. The revised Nintendo Switch nearly doubles the battery life thanks to a new processor.
Gaming

Fortnite

Fortnite from Epic Games first arrived on PC as an early access game in 2017. Featuring a mode called Save the World, players could jump online with a group of friends to collect resources, build structures, and defend against waves of…
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for August 2019

Looking to score Nintendo's latest console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals, including discounts on bundles that feature must-have games like Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Gaming

Here's the Gamescom 2019 conference schedule and all the announcements we expect

Gamescom 2019 will be the site for four different presentations, including the next Google Stadia Connect event. Here is when you can watch the shows, and what to expect from each of them.
Gaming

Epic Games insists Fortnite B.R.U.T.E. is fun; #RemoveTheMech not happening

Epic Games said that the controversial B.R.U.T.E. vehicles are part of providing "a fun experience" to Fortnite players. It appears that the developer has no plans of listening to the #RemoveTheMech movement.
Gaming

Microsoft’s Xbox head debunks rumors of streaming-only console in the works

Xbox head Phil Spencer debunked rumors that Microsoft is working on a streaming-only console that will utilize the company's Project xCloud. Spencer also said cloud gaming will not soon replace traditional consoles.
Gaming

Sorry, you can’t exchange your Nintendo Switch for an upgraded model

Customer representatives said that those who purchased the old model of the Nintendo Switch after July 17 would be able to upgrade their console into the new model for free. A Nintendo spokesperson has now denied the exchange program.