Pokemon Go now scans local storage for traces of rooting on Android

2018 08 18 13.36.53 - for some reason we don't have an alt tag hereI used to play Pokemon Go a lot. I hit level 40 last summer, then stopped playing. My primary reason for doing so was my increasing dislike for how the developers treat the players, which is a story in and of itself. To give a brief example, where one mobile game I play distribute compensation currency to apologize for spelling errors, Pokemon Go has an anti-cheat approach that unapologetically interferes with legitimate players on a daily basis.

This approach has been taken further with the latest update, 0.115.2 on Android. As far as I can tell, an XDA post by user .Netroller 3D first reported it, and then the story took off on Reddit. As of this update, the app now scans local storage for traces of the device being rooted. The system is so sensitive that having an empty folder called MagiskManager will make you unable to log into the game. It doesn’t matter if the device is rooted or has ever been rooted, so something like leftover folders from file transfers off old devices have triggered this. I tested it myself, and sure enough, creating an empty folder called MagiskManager using a file manager made the app unable to log in.

Furthermore, it seems like the app is doing this with or without storage access. I tried revoking the app’s storage permissions in system settings, and yet the app still detects the MagiskManager folder. Exactly how it does this is unclear, but at that point it’s not just abusing app permissions, it’s circumventing them.

People are understandably furious about this. This is a blatant misuse of the app’s access, practically turning Pokemon Go into a personal information scraper for Niantic. Even if you were to make the argument that Niantic can rightfully disallow installation on rooted devices – a check done before installation – they certainly do not have the right to scan people’s local files. When you take into account that it seemingly does so without having the permission to do so, Pokemon Go is now basically malware.

Unfortunately, I’m not really surprised. Android has gone so much downhill in recent versions that I’ve been moving away from it for good, which is why I don’t post much lately. The OS has become more and more hostile towards the open nature of earlier versions, and I see no more fitting end to my Android experience than witnessing one of its biggest apps become malware in an attempt to hunt down anyone who wants to use their phone to its fullest.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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