One of the major conversations surrounding Pokemon Go has been the use of "bot programs" to give some players a competitive advantage. Niantic Labs, the developer of Pokemon Go, responded to the rampant bot use by automatically banning any player who uses the game. While Niantic hasn't officially commented on how they ban players, we know that they target both IP addresses and actual player accounts when using the ban. IP bans are different than player bans in that they allow players to log into Pokemon Go, but no Pokemon, gyms, or PokeStops appear within the game.
Earlier today, a Redditor on /r/pokemongodev, a community that developed many of the bot programs Niantic is battling against, decided to test a theory on IP bans with surprising results. The redditor allegedly used several burner SIM cards to launch several thousand simultaneous scans of the Pokemon Go servers, similar to what services such as PokeVision did in order to display Pokemon locations. All of the scans were tied to a specific national IP address, used by the cell phone company Proximus. Proximus is Belgium's largest cell phone service provider.
Although the user's initial test found that he could run the scans through the national IP address, potentially giving scan systems an unfettered "in" into the Pokemon Go servers, Niantic eventually flagged the IP and banned it. This inadvertently led to Niantic banning every single user who had a Proximus's cell coverage, as banning Proximus's national IP address meant that all Proximus users could no longer use their mobile data to access the game. It's likely whoever flagged the IP address was unaware that it wasn't a private/personal IP address.
The Redditor who allegedly caused the ban later claimed that he didn't actually go through with the test and that Niantic pre-emptively banned the entire country of Belgium after reading his posts.
Sadly, this isn't the first time an entire country has lost access to Pokemon Go. Brazil previously suffered from a widespread Pokemon Go outage due to a similar test/IP ban, although that was quickly resolved a few hours later. Checking Twitter and various Belgian Pokemon Go fanpages, it appears that Proximus users still can't access the game.
Obviously, this represents a major problem for Niantic Labs, who just yesterday formally acknowledged they were stepping up their efforts to curb cheating and bot programs. Clearly, banning cheaters should be a priority for Pokemon Go, but maybe a country-wide ban is a bit excessive?