How hackers broke Pokémon Go’s anti-cheat technology in four days

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HACK THE POKE-PLANET! Oh, wait, wrong meme… (credit: Aurich vs GITS vs Pokémon)

When we first wrote about the world of automated Pokémon Go-playing “bot” programs a few weeks ago, we predicted a brewing technological war. Developer Niantic was inevitably going to deploy cheat-detection technology, and hackers would subsequently work to break through that detection. Last week, we saw the first battle in that war, and so far it seems like the hackers are winning handily.

After largely ignoring the growing issues of bots (and related mapping hacks) for weeks, Pokémon Go developer Niantic rolled out a mandatory game update last Wednesday focused on cutting off server access for such unofficial apps. In a blog post last Thursday, Niantic cited “aggressive efforts by third parties to access our servers outside of the Pokémon Go game client and our terms of service.” The developer argued these hacks were overloading its servers and its employees, slowing efforts to improve the game and bring it to new markets.

“Developers have to spend time controlling this problem vs. building new features,” Niantic wrote. “It’s worth noting that some of the tools used to access servers to scrape data have also served as platforms for bots and cheating which negatively impact all Trainers. There is a range of motives here from blatant commercial ventures to enthusiastic fans but the negative impact on game resources is the same.”

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