Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pokemon Go: The Perfect Storm of Novelty and Nostalgia

Have you noticed more people than normal exhibiting traits of the aptly named "text neck"? It sure seems like I have.  Well, statistics would seem to verify our observations.  Pokemon, created by Satoshi Tajiri in 1995, is one of the most successful franchises in history, and is still breaking new ground twenty years after its inception. What we have is the perfect storm of novelty and nostalgia.  The idea of Pokemon Go, while not the first, is without question the most successful iteration of what is known as a" location-based augmented reality game".

Basically, in Pokemon Go you create a character whose objective is to locate Pokemon (mythical creatures) who appear on your phone, and then catch them by throwing (swiping your finger on the screen) a Pokeball.  Whats makes Pokemon Go such a phenomenon is that you can't play this game sitting at home, it requires that you go outside in the fresh air. You are a Pokemon Trainer, traveling to locations in the real world where the Pokemon roam, and the Boomers and Millennials play.

Anything that gets people moving can be seen as having a level of redeeming value, but just as with any new technology or application, Pokemon Go represents unique issues in our increasingly plugged in and distracted age.   The National Safety Counsel (NSC) released a survey reporting the use of cell phones while driving showing that 74% of participants use Facebook while behind the wheel.  Now take into account that mobile users are spending more time on Pokemon Go than Facebook.  

Pokemon Go related car accidents are already being reported due to distracted driving, with Pokemon Trainers crashing into police cruisers and into power poles.   This is not a surprise to the forensic examiners at Guardian Digital Forensics.  Our experts have performed forensic examinations on thousands of cell phones, and have seen firsthand the problem and potentially lethal outcome of distracted driving since the advent of text messaging.  While distracted driving is an obvious issue related to any popular mobile application,  there are also reports of suspects using Pokemon Go to lure robbery victims and stealing the cell phones of Pokemon Go players at gunpoint.

Cell phone forensic experts and forensic tool creators alike are hard at work figuring out how to parse the data created by Pokemon Go.  If the popularity of this game persists (and it shows no sign of waning), then forensic data recovered from Pokemon Go will be coming to litigation near you.  Pokemon Go represents another set of forensic artifacts that can be used to determine user activity alongside the staples such as text messages, emails, messaging applications, videos, pictures, Internet history, and a myriad of other data types; all of which forensic examiners can recover from a cell phone, including data that is believed to be deleted.

The work of a digital forensic expert is never done in our rapidly changing digital world.  When it comes to forensic artifacts, we "Gotta Catch'Em All". 

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