Houseparty, an app that enables group video chats via mobile and desktop, has surged in popularity since COVID-19’s outbreak and the consequential global lockdown. Acquired last year by Epic Games, the app appeals to users with its fluidity and functionality, setting it apart from other video chatting platforms. For instance: the friends you add on Houseparty get notifications once you’ve logged into the app and vice versa; the app makes it easy for users to join in on other “houseparties” that friends are part of; you can even challenge your friends in the various games and quizzes Houseparty offers while video chatting.
In theory, this app seemed like the perfect pick-me-up during the current social-distancing era we’ve entered—but a recent outpour of user concerns and hacking rumors have quickly suggested otherwise.
Houseparty: where hackers feed on consumer data
Many Houseparty users took to Twitter to voice concern of the dangers in downloading this seemingly fun and convenient app after finding that they’d been locked out of their Spotify, Netflix, Paypal accounts—and most alarmingly, their bank accounts. The app requests permission to access all of the functions you’d expect: your camera, microphone, location data, phone contacts and connections on Facebook. In his statement to CNBC, Lukas Stefanko, a cybersecurity researcher, assured that Houseparty couldn’t have possibly accessed data from third-party apps. He tells CNBC, “I believe they have to act quickly as there isn’t much they can do about it to protect their brand.”
Houseparty announces $1m award for alleged culprit behind “smear campaign”
After these claims surfaced—alarming users and knocking the app on its feet—Houseparty suggested that these hacking rumors were spread by a “smear campaign” in efforts to sabotage the budding app and publicly blasted a sizable reward for “the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign” via Twitter yesterday morning; promising that they don’t and haven’t tapped into data for third-party applications on user devices.
Users say delete the app…now
Houseparty may not be the source of confidential information reaching hackers, but users are far too concerned to take the risk. Thousands across the globe have flooded Twitter with warnings to delete the app immediately. Instructions on how to properly delete the app, leaving no trace of sensitive data behind, have since emerged on multiple sites. Most warn that you need to log out of the app before deleting it. Strangely, according to The Telegraph, there’s no way to delete the app on Androids; they instruct users to email Houseparty’s support team for help.
It’s still unclear whether or not Houseparty is to blame for these hacks. The founder of UK-based company The Cyber Security Expert, Rob Pritchard, told CNN that the hacking reports he had seen “didn’t make much sense,” adding that people may be using the same passwords for all of these accounts, which could explain everything; and that “corporate sabotage” is “highly unlikely.”