‘Spy tool’ concerns as Pokémon mania grips Kingdom

Updated 14 July 2016
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‘Spy tool’ concerns as Pokémon mania grips Kingdom

JEDDAH: As the global obsession with smartphone game Pokémon Go intensifies, many have taken to Twitter and social media sites to warn about the impact of the game on social life and the security of citizens and the country.
Pokémon Go works via GPS technology, using the phone camera to search for Pokémon characters and hunt them down.
While some claim the game could be a breach of privacy for users and their mobile phones, more serious concerns revolve around the possible threats to national security, as in the course of playing the game, sensitive sites, such as security buildings, houses of worship, foreigners’ residential complexes, embassies, consulates and others may be photographed.
Many observers and commentators on social media warn that the game, like others, may also be penetrated by terrorist organizations who use it to contact youths and recruit them.
They are calling on authorities to closely examine such games and their potential danger to national security, as well as the possibility that they may become tools for terrorists, enemy countries or spy agencies wishing to collect data and information about sensitive locations.
Nayef Al-Subaie, an expert in technology, says the danger of these games is that they use live stream technology connected to the Internet and GPS, while those who play the game have limited understanding of where the stream is uploaded or what sites they may be led to during the game, “potentially embassies, consulates, military installations, oil refineries and our cities”.
Such images may be used by foreign organizations, as was the case with the Baqeeq refinery, which was monitored by Al-Qaeda and attacked on Feb. 29, 2006, he said.
Naser Al-Qahtani, an electronic security expert, said these games can be easily accessed and used to spy on individuals, as well as infected with viruses. They can collect the largest possible amount of information and images from users around the world.
Information security experts have issued reminders that Saudi Arabia is constantly subjected to a large number of electronic attacks due to its special military, security and economic strength, which makes the game, and others of its kind, a cause for concern.
Hamed Al-Haddad, a citizen, says security authorities must intervene immediately to ban this game in the Kingdom until it is properly studied to identify any potential dangers, especially to society or the national security.
Other concerns about the game, says Masoud Al-Ali, are that it requests links to the users’ personal information and e-mails, and its highly addictive nature causes users to lose touch with their surroundings and reality, and pay no attention to potential risks.
The game has caused global hysteria in the past few days, but it has yet to be introduced to the Arab markets.
Saudis, however, were able to upload the game by using “proxies” and relocating to countries where the game already exists.
Some parents warn about the game, which pose potential hazards to their children because characters sometimes appear in dangerous places, such as the middle of a road or in suspicious sites.
Some even hunt down the Pokémon characters using bicycles and cars, which may lead to accidents.


Kiswa of Kaaba raised in preparation for Hajj

Updated 50 min 31 sec ago
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Kiswa of Kaaba raised in preparation for Hajj

  • Up to 50 people worked on the raising of Kiswa this year
  • The Kiswa is replaced with white cloth during Hajj

DUBAI: The lower part of Kaaba’s Kiswa, the black cloth draped around the holy shrine, was raised 3 meters in preparation for the new Hajj season and was replaced with white cloth instead, Reasah Al-Harmain said on Friday.
The procedure is done every year before the Hajj season in order to protect the Kiswa, as some pilgrims touch and pull on the black cloth when they circumambulate the Kaaba.

Up to 50 technicians and specialists oversaw the annual process, head of the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Ahmad bin Muhammad Al-Mansouri said.
What some pilgrims do to the Kiswa stems from wrongful beliefs, which is why the black cloth is raised and replaced with white textile during Hajj, he added.
The original Kiswa will be draped again after the Hajj season concludes, Al-Mansouri said.