Hackers Probably Didn't Crash Pokémon Go Servers

You don't have to take gadfly hackers at their word. Take, for example, the recent issues with the Pokémon Go servers.

The game was launched in 26 new countries simultaneously over the weekend, and it's reasonable enough to believe that the already-beleaguered game might undergo some additional server strain. Two groups of amateur hackers were ready to claim responsibility for the expected service outages, however, even though there's no way to prove the activities of either group had any impact.

Credit: Niantic LabsCredit: Niantic Labs

The suggestion that hackers crashed Pokémon Go servers comes from PoodleCorp and OurMine, two different loose affiliations of hackers that troll big organizations either to expose security flaws, or to just have a laugh, depending on whom you ask. If you remember Lizard Squad trying to take game servers offline basically just because they could, you've got the general idea. (OurMine claims to attack high-profile targets for network-security reasons, but the end result is about the same.)

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There's not much substance to either PoodleCorp's tweet or OurMine's statement. Each just points out that Pokémon Go was offline for a while on July 16, then claims responsibility for the outage. A later tweet from PoodleCorp suggests that the group plans to launch another distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on the game's servers Aug. 1. The game’s servers were indeed inundated when the organizations claimed, but Niantic Labs cited "server issues" as the root of the problem. Later, the company said it had identified and dealt with said issues.

As to whether the two groups were behind Pokémon Go's server issues, it seems unlikely at best. For one thing, there's no evidence for it, and there's a perfectly reasonable explanation to the contrary. Occam's Razor suggests that 26 new countries' worth of players would do just fine crashing the servers on their own, especially considering the almost constant server strain from the dozen or so nations in which the game is currently available. Two different groups patting themselves on the back for the same attack also suggests that neither of them really did it.

Furthermore, trolling massive quantities of people is pretty much the MO for hacktivist collectives. Whether they really crashed servers or just pretended to, they still got a lot of people angry and a lot of eyes on themselves. Either result serves the groups' purposes just fine.

Whatever really happened (or happens Aug. 1), server outages are a fact of life for any online game, from World of Warcraft to Pokémon Go. This is neither the first nor last time players will have to deal with it, so enjoy the game while you can, and have some kind of backup activity planned for when you can’t.

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