Pokemon GO GPS spoofing has been a concern in the game for a long time. It allows players to abuse the game, catching Pokemon and visiting Gyms that they otherwise would not be able to reach. But one recent case of GPS spoofing didn't lead players to complain, though it did see them potentially discover a Russian cyberweapon.
There have been several reports about satellite navigation problems in Russia over the past year, including a case in June that saw 20 ships have their locations listed at an in-land airport. But while this particular incident was not seen as a huge concern, it wasn't until Pokemon GO players in Moscow said that the game was placing them at an incorrect location that people really began to sit up and take notice.
Those playing the hit mobile game in central Moscow said that the game thought they were actually at the Vnukovo Airport (32km away), meaning that they were unable to play it properly. It is believed that these Pokemon GO players were the victims of a Russian cyberweapon.
A signal, which is reportedly coming from the Kremlin, is being sent out to purposefully misdirect GPS signals in the area and provide mobile users and the captains of ships with the incorrect locations. It is believed that the cyberweapon is designed to make it harder for enemy vessels to navigate the area and so that enemy missiles can't find their targets. The Pokemon GO and ship reports seem to be evidence that Russia is testing its technology over wider areas.
This is not the first time that Pokemon GO has been a thorn in the side of Russian authorities. Most notably, a Russian blogger was arrested for playing the game in church. The blogger's arrest and resulting conviction became an international news story about human rights and, of course, the dangers of playing Pokemon GO.
Even The Simpsons poked fun at Russia as a result of the debacle. Though, as to be expected, that episode was banned from broadcast in the region.
It's unclear what this may mean for Russian Pokemon GO players in the future and whether the game could be banned in the country altogether. China previously banned the mobile title, citing safety concerns, so its Russian allies may take some inspiration and follow suit. Or Russia may just ban the game in central Moscow, lest Pokemon GO players in the region continue to keep track of GPS spoofing tests as development of its possible cyberweapon continues.
Pokemon GO is out now on Android and iOS.
Source: New Scientist