Houseparty, a social video app that is quickly gaining popularity amid the coronavirus lockdown, is offering a $1 million bounty to the first person who provides proof of what they believe is a “paid commercial smear campaign”. In the past couple of days rumors indicated that Houseparty had been hacked. This supposedly resulted in a number of unrelated accounts being compromised.
App Maker Strongly Denies Hack
The rumors rapidly started to spread on Monday when three British tabloids – The Sun, The Express and Mirror Online – reported a possible hack. Apparently, a large number of users claimed that some of their other accounts were compromised shortly after they downloaded and installed Houseparty.
Several people reported that their Instagram, Spotify and Snapchat apps had been taken over. Others noticed irregularities on their Paypal, eBay and even bank accounts, and openly accused Houseparty of knowingly stealing and/or sharing account information. Although very few people were able to provide details about what really happened, the rumors quickly went viral. Consequently, a growing number of users deleted the app and urged others to do the same.
Houseparty has strongly denied all accusations and affirms that there is no sign or evidence of a data breach. “All accounts are safe – the service is secure, has never been compromised and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites”, Houseparty tweeted earlier this week.
$1 Million Bounty on the Table
Houseparty went on to state that what’s happening might actually be part of a commercial smear campaign. Consequently, they have launched an investigation. As part of this, the app’s owner, Epic Games, is now offering a $1 million bounty to the first person who provides proof that Houseparty is the victim of a smear campaign. Any proof is to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Epic Games is also the maker of the popular game Fortnite. In June 2019, they acquired Houseparty for an undisclosed sum of money. The app Houseparty was originally launched in 2016. User data is not being shared across the two platforms.
The popularity of the social video app is growing. Houseparty has been downloaded from Google Play over 10 million times. Daily downloads have increased from little under 25,000 a day in mid-February to an astonishing 650,000 on March 25.
Choose Strong and Unique Passwords
While no app can be termed 100% secure, previous analysis by cyber security experts did not unveil any misuse. That being said, some privacy issues have surfaced with Houseparty.
Also, security experts and even the FBI have warned users about “zoombombing”. Opposite to what the name suggests, this relatively new phenomenon is not restricted to the Zoom-app. It can theoretically happen on any platform, including Houseparty.
As a general rule, it is important to choose strong and unique passwords for every single account. Next, a password manager is very helpful to keep track of passwords. And finally, it is advised to enable two-factor authentication where possible and to consider using a VPN to increase your online security and privacy.