Is the Houseparty app really hacking your phone? An Investigation
Chances are you have a definite case of cabin fever. We're now all in week 2 of social isolation and in some parts of the world complete lockdown. Apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Houseparty have replaced Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
Houseparty, which shot to instant fame in 2020, despite being around since 2016, has quickly become a home screen staple during the coronavirus lockdown. It has seen almost two million downloads last week alone. So, understandably the claims that the app could lead to your Netflix, Snapchat or Spotify account being hacked, were a serious cause for concern considering these are all down filed under "essential survival requirements."
What is Houseparty?
Houseparty, owned by online gaming firm Epic Games, launched quietly in 2016. It is available on Android, iPhone, iPad and Macs, however dubbed the “face to face social network”, it does more than just video. It also lets you play games and quizzes with your near and dear online.
In 2019, the app released a statement indicating it would be joining Epic Games:
“Joining Epic is a great step forward in achieving our mission of bringing empathy to online communication,” said Sima Sistani, Co-founder and CEO of Houseparty. “We have a common vision to make human interaction easier and more enjoyable, and always with respect for user privacy.”
Epic Games is a gaming company worth over $15bn now most famous for owning global gaming phenomenon Fortnite
So why do people think Houseparty has been hack?
Well, it's a largely unsubstantiated claim that's been making the rounds of Twitter and Whatsapp. Instyle reports that the rumours first spread on Twitter, with users saying that there had been attempted “hacks” on other apps after they downloaded Houseparty. The rumour originated from one tweet, which has since been deleted, in which the user claimed that the Houseparty app tried to log into her Spotify account.
One user asked fans of the app to "delete your account before you delete the app", another said they "recommend everyone to delete that house party app, had my email etc hacked from it".
The app makers were so concerned with the rumours that they released multiple statements and said outright that it doesn't store passwords and that the service is secure.
All Houseparty accounts are safe - the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 30, 2020
The rumours have ovbiously gone viral world over, including right here in Dubai. Houseparty is now saying it is a victim of a "paid commercial smear campaign" and has offered a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove it has been sabotaged.
We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty. We are offering a $1,000,000 bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign to email@example.com.— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 31, 2020
Wait, is this all a conspiracy? Well, neither Houseparty nor Epic Games have elaborated on why they believe this is a bigger conspiracy but they are offering a pretty big reward for information. Only time will tell if we will ever find out whether is was a coordinated attempt to "smear" the popular app. But for now, the short answer is: the app is safe to use.