‘Spy tool’ concerns as Pokémon mania grips Kingdom

Updated 14 July 2016

‘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.

Four killed in failed terrorist attack on interior ministry building north of Riyadh

Updated 21 April 2019

Four killed in failed terrorist attack on interior ministry building north of Riyadh

  • Three government security personnel suffered minor injuries during the exchange of fire
  • The identities of the four gunmen are still being determined

RIYADH: Four heavily armed attackers were killed in a failed terrorist attack on an interior ministry building in Zulfi, north of Riyadh.

A spokesperson from the Kingdom’s Presidency of State Security also said that three government security personnel suffered minor injuries during the exchange of fire, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Al-Arabiya reported that the assailants belonged to Daesh, but the group had not claimed responsibility for the attack and there was no official confirmation from Saudi authorities as to the identity of the attackers on Sunday afternoon.

“The security authorities in the Presidency managed to thwart the terrorist act targeting the center of investigations ... and dealt with them as required by the situation,” the spokesman was quoted by SPA as saying.

The identities of the four gunmen are still being determined by government authorities, the news agency added.

Special security personnel were still working on the site to assess and identify the explosive materials that the terrorists had in their possession, the spokesperson said, and the findings would be announced later.

The suspects, who were on board a car, tried to crash through the main entrance of the General Directorate of Investigation’s Center in Riyadh, but were intercepted by security to prevent the vehicle from gaining access into the compund.

Two gunmen died during the initial exchange of fire with the security forces, while one was killed as he attempted to flee. The fourth attacker died as he tried to blow up an explosive belt,  pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported. 

The Kingdom of Bahrain condemned the actions of the suspects and the terrorist attack on Sunday, the country's news agency said.