Concerns over security of Houseparty app

Covid-19 has left us with no choice but to social distance. Ireland is only a few weeks into the pandemic and already people are feeling the effects of not being able to see their friends and family. 

Naturally, the nation has turned to websites, apps and extensions that allow us to hang out with our friends from the comfort of our own homes. One such app is Houseparty, who market themselves as “the face to face social network.”

Houseparty allows up to eight people to video chat, while also providing games like “Heads Up” to play. It has recently reached number one on the top charts in the app store for social media and has an overall rating of 4.7/5.

However, Houseparty has been in the news this week for all the wrong reasons. Concerns are emerging that Houseparty is an unsafe network and users have complained that their other social media accounts have been hacked.

Numerous people have tweeted that their other accounts like Netflix, Spotify and even PayPal have been hacked and they have been forced to log out and change passwords.

Houseparty, who are owned by Epic Games – the same people who created Fortnite – have responded by tweeting, “All Houseparty accounts are safe – the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

Despite this, people were still advising one other to delete their accounts. Love Island star Olivia Bowen sent a tweet encouraging people to delete their profiles saying she has heard it’s not trustworthy and that her friend has been hacked.

Houseparty have said that they are the victims of a smear campaign aimed to hurt the app. They are offering a huge amount of money for anyone who has information regarding the alleged campaign.

On the 31st of March, the official house party Twitter account tweeted, “We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumours were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.” They continued by saying, “We are offering a $1,000,000 bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign to bounty@houseparty.com.”

This isn’t the first issue with the video chat app, there has also been some controversy over their privacy settings. The default setting for each house party is unlocked, this means that, unless you remember to change your settings and lock the virtual room, complete strangers are free to join you and your friends’ conversation.

This has unfortunately led to people jumping from party to party flashing people or displaying pornographic content. Users have also complained that it is too hard to delete your account should you want to be rid of Houseparty.

For iPhone and iPad users you can delete your account of the app itself but at this moment in time the only way someone with an android phone can delete their account is by emailing Houseparty support and asking them directly.

Everyone is being encouraged to ensure their Houseparty password is different to their usual one in case the app is being hacked. If you are worried about the hacking and want to steer clear from the app for a little while, other great options for chatting with your friends are websites like Zoom or video calls that are available of some of the social medias you are bound to have like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Instagram.

Aoife McMahon

Image Credit: Wikimedia