One-click is all it takes to fake a location in a video mobile gaming app. Have you ever wondered about how hackers mess with Global Positioning System (GPS) to gain control of games or, well, cheat in the first place? This happens more often than you think, but how exactly does it affect the gaming industry and what can you do about it?
What is GPS spoofing in mobile gaming apps?
But let’s start with an explanation. In short, GPS spoofing is an alteration of the signals which GPS uses to track a specific device. When somebody spoofs GPS, their location shows as if they were somewhere else. In video games, it broadly means the location of the player is changed to anywhere in the world. The falsified location or time zone is then often used for cheating purposes.
How does GPS spoofing in mobile gaming apps work?
GPS spoofing starts with an external app that overrides GPS signals on a particular device. This is possible because the signal is not encrypted, meaning it requires no verification for transmission. There are a multitude of applications available that override GPS signals, they are free to download and use and work across all mobile devices. They manipulate the data of the original coordinates on the device, enabling a variety of options for cheating.
Why is GPS spoofing used in mobile gaming apps?
Cheaters use GPS spoofing to their advantage either to sabotage a game mission or to cheat their way through a game. A common scenario is to fake one’s location in order to, e.g., win perks, just like what happened in the popular mobile game Pokémon Go (see below).
What impact does GPS spoofing have on the mobile gaming industry?
Here are the key ways in which GPS spoofing impacts location-based mobile games and their developers (i.e., you):
- It unfairly allows location-based rewards as players can easily fake their location to anywhere on the globe.
- It creates noticeable inconsistencies in the quality of the game.
- It frustrates honest players, discouraging them from continuing their playthrough, which results in a shrinking player base.
- It cuts into your profits, as cheaters find a way around your in-app purchases and may inspire other players to use this method to also avoid paying for extras.
Mobile gaming app GPS spoofing in Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go – a game that was downloaded over 500 million times – is a prime example of a game where location spoofing happened daily. In the game, players must walk around in different locations or pay money to unlock a new Pokémon, which later earns them further rewards.
Where did it go wrong? The game uses technologies to block mock-locations, enough players were able to find an alternative way to ‘catch ‘em all’ without physically going to places. Not only did they use GPS spoofing apps, but also some other location faking techniques, e.g., bots, PokeDrones and Wi-Fi spoofing. Researchers examining this phenomenon concluded that location spoofing in Pokémon Go happened for trivial reasons – the players did not want to spend money or travel for their rewards.
Eventually, the location spoofing ruined some players’ overall experience which called for testing out actions against spoofers.
What can you do about GPS spoofing in mobile gaming apps?
Ask yourself, is your game location-based with rewards associated with specific locations, and can it draw cheaters to exploit them?
If the answer is yes, it is your task to make it difficult for cheaters to fake locations in your mobile gaming apps. How? By applying protective solutions available. Our Mobile Protection SDK, for example, prevents hackers from root detection and provides mock-provider detection tampering. Both features help eliminate GPS spoofing.
To add to that, we are also working to bring forward our own anti-spoofing technology to help mobile game developers with the perfect formula for protection of their location-based titles.
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