Story By Airman Alex Brun
July 6 was a highly anticipated day for Pokémon enthusiasts across the country with the release of the game Pokémon Go. The new game uses a Smartphone GPS and camera to allow players to catch Pokémon in the surrounding area.Although the game is loved by many, it is causing severe concern to military base security and cybersecurity professionals.
“As a kid, I was a super-fan. I had all of the Pokémon videos, cards, plush toys and a backpack,” said Airman 1st Class Orlando Saenz, services specialist, 184th Force Support Squadron. “There have been Pokémon games and play systems throughout the years, but now that technology has advanced, it has been very cool to feel like you are living the game in Pokémon Go.”
The purpose of Pokémon Go is to get gamers off the couch and out in the community through an interactive game.
“It is a good way to get out and explore your area because certain landmarks around you are part of the game,” said Saenz. “You can pull up your phone and see a Squirtle on your desk or Pikachu in your living room. It’s special because it is incorporated into everyday life.”
The widespread success of Pokémon Go has led to safety and security concerns for military installations, including McConnell Air Force Base.
“There have been a lot of incidents because some people are taking it too extreme,” said Saenz. “It’s definitely something that I would not pursue around base.”
“We know that there are known locations on the installation,” said Senior Master Sgt. Stacie Smith, superintendent, 184th Security Forces Squadron. “It’s been reported that there have been groups of people gathering on multiple locations at McConnell to catch Pokémon.”
Potential for trespassing due to Pokémon hunting is a safety concern for McConnell Air Force Base and action has been taken to address the issue.
“The procedures are already in place to control access to the installation as well as restricted areas on base,” said Smith. “If somebody breaks those rules, they could face trespassing charges and if they are a military member going into areas that they are not authorized to be in, or do not have the commanders approval, they could face disciplinary action.”
Along with trespassing, another area of concern is an increase in distracted driving.
“Electronic devices are prohibited while driving on the installation, so they would face the same consequences as if they were texting and driving or using a phone while operating a vehicle,” said Smith.
In addition to safety concerns, cybersecurity and privacy issues are arising.
“It’s reported that the privacy statement that you have to agree to, to download Pokémon Go, is 20 pages, and few will actually read it,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Scott Sackrider, cybersecurity officer, Joint Forces Headquarters, Kansas National Guard.
Behind the scenes, Pokémon Go, is gaining access to the private information of its users.
“When it was originally coded, if you were on an iPhone, the game allowed access to all of your Google Drive documents, your email, it could send an email as you, it could access photos that you store in Google Photos and more,” said Sackrider.
Sackrider stated that what can be used for good can also be used for evil, so he emphasizes using caution if you play it.
“Pokémon Go has captured the attention of everyone,” said Sackrider. “We are just waiting to see where to go from here.”