Threat Research

Pokémon Go Plus Preview (Through Reverse Engineering)

By Axelle Apvrille | August 10, 2016

While inspecting the Pokémon Go application, I incidentally found information on the forthcoming Pokémon Go Plus device. Basically, this is the Pokémon IoT: a connected wristband with a button (to throw a pokéball, for instance), an RGB LED, and vibration capability (e.g to notify of nearby pokémon).

The device has not yet released, and the software is still under development: as you can see below, version 0.29.x corresponds to "BETA4".

Implementation in version 0.31.0 has changed considerably, with lots of code shifted inside its native library And no, this is not a PGP / GPG plugin. PGP probably means Pokémon Go Plus ;)

A Bluetooth Low Energy Device

At first look, we immediately see that the device will communicate via Bluetooth Low Energy (just like many IoT devices, such as Fitbit Flex, Beam toothbrush, etc).

Currently, 4 BLE services are planned:

  • Firmware update service. This one is not used or implemented yet.
  • Device control service. There is one characteristic to read the current firmware version, one for notifying when the button is pressed, and one to control the LED and vibration. The same characteristic pilots both the LED and vibration; we'll see how more precisely below.
  • A so-called "certificate" service, although this actually appears to be an authentication service. This service is not yet fully implemented, but from what I disassembled, it looks like authentication will involve a nonce to encrypt with AES-CTR. This is to be confirmed in future versions.
  • Battery service. This is a standard BLE service, and using the standard values, we will be able to query the battery level of the device.


Basically, in version 0.31.0, a client service receives the intents com.nianticlabs.pokemongoplus.service.ToClient. The "extra" action of the intent (e.g "batteryLevel", "encounterId", "pokestop") calls the appropriate method from the ClientBridge class. For example, respectively sendBatteryLevel(), sendEncounterId() and sendPokestopId(). Those methods then call the native functions implemented in

So, most of the interesting stuff should occur in the native library. Below, we see the JNI stub which corresponds to public native void sendEncounterId(long arg1).

The code retrieves a native handle with type "J", where J stands for "long" in JNI. Unfortunately, to my understanding so far, communication with the device has not yet been implemented.

Consequently, we have to look at earlier versions (v0.29.x) to get more hints as to how the Pokémon Go Plus device may work.

Reversing Patterns 

Indeed, versions 0.29.x show a few test messages to send to the Pokémon Go Plus device. For example, there are the bytes to send to have the device blink red, or what to do on the device when a pokémon is captured.


The format for those patterns is coded as follows.

There is a header with:

  • byte 1 contains a delay in milliseconds divided by 50.
  • bytes 2 and 3 are 0, and probably reserved.
  • byte 4 contains the message's priority (bits 5 to 7), and then bits 0 to 5, the number of 3-byte patterns that follow

Then, the 3-byte pattern has:

  • byte 1, a delay in milliseconds divided by 50.
  • byte 2: bits 7-4 correspond to the color green for the LED, bits 0-3 to the color red.
  • byte 3: bit 7 indicates if "interpolation" is enabled, bits 4 to 6 indicate vibration level. Finally bits 0-3 are for the color blue of the LED.

Let's confirm this with the pattern getBlinkRed():

  • The header is "0 0 0 13". This means no particular delay and priority, and that 13 3-byte patterns follow
  • The first pattern is "1, 15, 112". This means a short delay (1). 15 is 00001111 in binary so we have no green, but full red. 112 is 0x70 = 01110000b which means no blue, no interpolation, but vibration enabled. So basically, the LED flashes red and vibrates.
  • The second pattern is "1, 0, 0". This means a short delay again, but no green, blue, or red, and no vibration. In practice, that turns off the LED and vibration.

The other patterns repeat the process of flashing the red light and vibrating, then stopping. This has the expected effect of having the device "blink" red.

Let's see now what getCaptureSucceeded does. I'll go a bit faster this time, but you can follow bit per bit.

The header indicates we have 24 3-byte patterns. Actually, they consist of 4 patterns repeated 6 times.

  • Pattern 1: "3, 8, 240". Short delay (3), no green, some red, no blue, interpolation and vibration.
  • Pattern 2: "3, 240, 240". Short delay (3), full green, no red, no blue, interpolation and vibration.
  • Pattern 3: "2, 0, 255". Shorter delay (2), full blue, no red, no green, interpolation and vibration.
  • Pattern 4: "1, 0, 143". Even shorter delay (1), no green, no red, full blue, interpolation but stopping vibration.

This will probably look like a glowing red, then green, then blue, with vibration impulses.

There are several other patterns to "decode" (getDowserProximity1(), getPokemonCaught(), getReachedPokestop(), getSpawnedPokemon()...) and possibly funny ones like getMorseGame1()You can use my Python script to decode them.

All of this reversing will naturally need to be confirmed with a real Pokémon Go Plus device once it is released. Meanwhile, we never know how specs may change.

So what? 

First of all, good news, I found no malicious code in the Dalvik classes nor in the native library I inspected.

Second, with all of this information readily available, hackers can build their own Pokémon Go Plus device. In fact, there are already initiatives for that with Arduino.

It is also possible to get ready for alternate usages of these devices. For instance, if as expected the device does generate a random nonce, it can be used as a hardware random number generator as I did with the Fitbit Flex. Or code your own pattern.

Finally, depending on how good the pairing mechanism turns out to be, an attacker or a jealous competitor might send dummy patterns to have your device run out of battery (repeated vibration), or send fake alarms telling you that you are close to a Pokémon. Note that this has already happened without the Pokémon Go Plus, so be cautious where you go!

Thanks to Raphael Le Bras for his tips on Pokémon Go.

-- the Crypto Girl

Click here to read my threat analysis of the Pokémon Go application.