Culture

Something Weird Is Happening With Houseparty, Everyone’s New Favourite App

Social media is awash with 'anecdotes' about people's bank accounts being hacked because of Houseparty. What's going on?

Rumours swirl around Houseparty hacking, leading app to offer $1,000,000 bounty

With much of the world social distancing and remaining inside their homes, Houseparty has skyrocketed from little known to a lifeline of entertainment, as everyone and their aunt downloaded the app to video chat with friends and play games to pass the time.

But a single tweet from Houseparty has suggested something strange is happening with the app, as they offer a $1,000,000 bounty to anyone who can prove the app’s being targeted by a commercial competitor.

In case you’ve missed the trend, Houseparty is a video-chat app that lets you connect with any friends from social media contact lists, showing you who is online at any time. You can enter a room with them and anybody else, starting a virtual house party that includes options for trivia and games like Pictionary. It’s existed since 2016, but has, naturally, taken off in the age of COVID-19, and was well-equipped for the surge after it was bought by Fortnight owners Epic Games last year.

In the past few days, concerns over the app’s security have spread across social media — specifically, the repeated line that individual’s Houseparty account had been hacked, and from there, so too had been their Spotify, Netflix and even bank accounts. Here are just a few examples.

There’s little link between the alleged breaches and the app, but the line has been drawn repeatedly online, with influencers such as Love Island UK contestant Olivia Bowen telling her half a million followers to delete the app.

Adding fuel to the fire, users have been surprised to find how difficult it is to delete the app and their account, with no option to do so in the Android or desktop versions of the app.

As the rumour spread, Houseparty made an official statement via their Twitter, writing that the app doesn’t store passwords from other accounts. “All Houseparty accounts are safe – the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites,” it wrote.

In a follow-up tweet, Houseparty alleged the rumours were likely part of a “paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty”, offering a $1 million “bounty” to those who provide proof to their email, [email protected] It’s an odd response, to say the least, but assumedly Epic Games have a million reasons to think a competitor is trying to take them down.

While there’s no actual evidence as of yet that Houseparty has been hacked, if it was, it’s likely used additional accounts would also been ‘hacked’ not due to the app’s access to your bank account, but users having same password/email combination across networks. The easiest way to protect yourself online is to alternate passwords, using a password manager such as LastPass.

In addition to these rumours, Houseparty has attracted criticism for an overbearing security policy, which lets the app record and hold onto all in-app content, as well as its unregulated nature, where unlocked ‘rooms’ have been subjected to nudity or obscene content by users without warning, including underage users.