Video calling apps have become immensely popular during the coronavirus pandemic. And now one of them, an app called Houseparty, is offering a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove it’s been hacked.
Houseparty, which is the third most downloaded app on the iOS store in the United States, is a favorite of young people. In addition to video calling, the app allows users to take quizzes and play games with each other in a room (or “party”) with up to eight friends.
Rumors have swirled online that using Houseparty can cause serious damage. Users say downloading the app can lead to people’s accounts on other services, like Netflix and Spotify, being hacked.
Houseparty, which is owned by the online gaming company Epic Games (makers of the hugely popular Fortnite) is saying that’s bunk. They took to Twitter not only to deny the claims, but to tell their followers they’re conducting an investigation into the allegations.
“All Houseparty accounts are safe — the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites,” said one tweet.
In a subsequent tweet, Houseparty’s creators said the hacking rumors “were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.”
“There’s no way that you downloading an app like this on your phone should lead to your Netflix or bank account being hacked,” Rob Pritchard said in a conversation with CNN Business. Pritchard is the founder of The Cyber Security Expert, a company that advises companies on tech security.
Pritchard said sabotage was unlikely. He said that, due to the pandemic, many people are signing up for new services, and they might be using the same password for various apps.
Pritchard’s advice: “It’s really important that every online service user uses a unique password for every site they use.”