The new Captcha security measure deployed by Niantic is crippling 3rd party Pokemon Go tracker, scanners and bots.
The end of Pokemon Go scanners, trackers and bots is here. Niantic activated Captcha security yesterday afternoon, hitting especially large scale Pokemon Go scanners like FastPokeMap. The most popular Pokemon Go scanner that took over when Niantic shut down PokeVision is still operational, but the developer just about throwing in the towel.
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Known as whitelist_ip on reddit, the developer behind FastPokeMap just tweeted that he does nto see a viable way to solve captcha unless spending $4 per 1,000 captcha. FastPokeMap is getting hit by 10,000 captcha a second. That would mean the service would burn through $400 in captcha solving fees per second, this results in $24,000 per minute. We still just talk about a game, right? The scale of expenses is beyond any kind of crowd-funding efforts or donations.
Solving Captchas is one of these "Earn money online" jobs. Captcha solving services and tools are around since a while used by web scrapers of all kinds. Google's reCaptcha requires a "real" user to solve the captcha as Google does all kinds of behind the scene checking when you check the "I'm not a robot" box.
The reCaptcha Advanced Risk Analysis backend actively considers a user’s entire engagement with the captcha before, during, and after to determine whether that user is a human. This enables Google to rely less on typing distorted text and, in turn, offer a better experience for users. In case the risk analysis is unsure, the system presents a full Captcha that requires to decode an image. The captcha solver out there pay users to run apps to solve reCaptcha for others. It is a matter of economics if reCaptcha stops a scraping service or not.
FastPokeMap is using 500,000 accounts to provide a global Pokemon mapping service. This explains why FPM triggers 10,000 captcha per second. The large scale scanner might still run for a couple more days according to a Tweet on FastPokeMaps' Twitter account. FastPokeMap has been in service for about 10 weeks reaching 6 million unique users per day.
There is one solution to the reCaptcha problem of FastPokeMap that might keep the service alive. The developer just tweeted: "Well for now we're working at 80% capacity again, seems like my little tweak did the trick. Forwarding recaptcha to users and we good again."
When implemented, FastPokeMap users will be able to solve the captchas of the 500,000 FPM accounts. Update: FastPokeMap manages Captcha situation and will stay in service. Update 2: The creator of FastPokeMap stopped the scanners while they work on the implementation around the new security update. There is no ETA when FastPokeMap is working again. Niantic has enabled a new encryption besides reCaptcha that blocks all scrapers, not just FPM.
The Captchas are not completely blocking 3rd party apps, but it makes running large scale operations like FastPokeMap impossible to operate. Individual cheaters could still try to get by with personal scanners available on Github. They would need to solve the Captchas manual on a regular basis, or cycle through a handful accounts.
Niantic needs to blame itself for the rampant growth of 3rd party apps enabling to find Pokemon or even to automate the game using bots. The game had no security in place when it launched an the protocol of how the Pokemon Go app was communicating with the servers was out in the open. A first attempt on introducing encryption was quickly voided by the developer community organized through reddit and Github. The reCaptcha security deployment is the end for large scale scrapers.
Most trainers are against bots for obvious reasons. A bot software can take a Pokemon Go account to level 20 in a matter of hours. Bots are also bad for Niantic's revenues. Trainers run bots on throw away accounts to get the free lures that come with the levels.
The blocking of 3rd party Pokemon apps and the new improved SafetyNet blocking Pokemon Go again on rooted devices are dominating discussions in the trainer community. Niantic's announcement of a new feature on Wednesday is getting by far not that much attention. More Pokemon Go News.