Claims that the popular multi-user video app was hacked have been rife on social media of late. But are they true?
Houseparty – the video-calling app that seen a huge influx of downloads since COVID-19 social distancing began – has found itself embroiled in a hacking scandal.
A number of app users took to Twitter to voice that their Netflix and Spotify and even bank accounts were hacked, blaming Houseparty's servers for compromising their personal details.
Since then, more users have stated that they have been unable to delete their Houseparty account upon attempt.
Houseparty has become one of the most downloaded apps across many countries in recent weeks, including Ireland, as it enables people to communicate with each other via video chat.
According to Apptopia downloads of the app rose from an average of 130,000 a week mid-February to two million a week in the middle of March.
Tuesday morning saw the group take to Twitter to offer a $1,000,000 (€911,020) bounty for anyone with proof that there is a "smear campaign to harm" the app.
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 protected]— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 31, 2020
The company's statement in full reads: "We’ve found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts and we don't know where/how it originated.
"As a general rule, we suggest all users choose strong passwords when creating online accounts on any platform. Use a unique password for each account, and use a password generator or password manager to keep track of passwords, rather than using passwords that are short and simple.
"We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumours were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty."
But, how did this all begin?
To put it simply, tweets.
A series of pointed, defamatory tweets were posted on Monday, warning users of the Houseparty app and its potential for hacking.
Those tweets were followed up by calls to delete Houseparty, and by claims that Epic Games was preventing users from removing Houseparty from their phones.
However, the app does not access third-party apps like Netflix or Spotify, though it does ask for access to user's contacts and connections on Facebook and Snapchat.
The company issued a statement denying those allegations.
"We've found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts," a spokesperson for Epic Games said.
"As a general rule, we suggest all users choose strong passwords when creating online accounts on any platform."
However, the app is not without its risks. Privacy and parenting experts have warned about "gate crashers" entering conversation on the app – meaning that anyone could enter your video conversation by simply pressing a button.
This has lead to reports of inappropriate behaviour and even pornographic images being shown to unwitting users.
Should I delete my account?
It's entirely up to you. Thankfully the process is simple for iOS users, but you Andriod lot have to jump through a couple of hoops first.
On Apple devices, you first need to open the app and click on the smiley face in the upper corner of the screen.
Then you'll want to click on the red gear (settings button) and go to privacy.
In the privacy tab, you'll see a lock symbol next to it, tap that and select to delete your account and then enter in your password.
Android uses currently have to send an email requesting your account be deleted since you seemingly can't do it in the app.
Your best bet is to email [email protected] and ask that everything you put on there, like pictures, username, email and number, all be removed from the app as well.