Coronavirus: Houseparty app denies hacking claims, offers $1 mln bounty for accuser
A video chat app which has become popular for people under coronavirus lockdown has denied it allowed users to be hacked and instead offered a $1 million dollar bounty for information about where the accusations came from.
Houseparty, which was purchased by Epic Games in 2019, allows users to join virtual chatrooms via video call where they can play a range of built-in games and activities. The mobile and desktop app has boomed this month – with 2 million downloads a week in mid-March – as people across the world find themselves stuck indoors and unable to meet friends due to curfews imposed by authorities to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But this week, users of the app alleged that Houseparty had been used to hack their private details and bank accounts.
I was hacked @houseparty , money taken from @StarlingBank at the time I was in the room. The password for #HouseParty had been used before but the password was never used for Starling.— Fiona Grierson (@fionagrierson) March 31, 2020
The hack bridges the gap from HouseParty into iOS passwords and saved cards. #housepartyhack
On Sunday, the official Houseparty Twitter account tweeted that “All Houseparty accounts are safe - the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”
The app's owner Epic Games, which also owns the popular battle royale game Fortnite, previously said it had “found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts,” said the company.
However, users responded skeptically, with some claiming that Houseparty wouldn't let them delete their accounts despite them entering their correct password when prompted.
Doesn’t seem it when I have £250 unaccounted payments from my bank and Uber sends me codes - only happened since I downloaded your app. This is the Reason why I never download apps— DB (@9DanB) March 30, 2020
It keeps saying my password is wrong, I have reset my password 4 times, logged back in and it still won’t let me delete the app! Let me delete the app please!!— holls (@holslapham) March 30, 2020
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Houseparty offers $1 million bounty for evidence of “smear campaign”
The day after Houseparty denied the hacking accusations, it tweeted that it was investigating indications that the “hacking rumors were spread by a commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.”
The app also promised a $1 million bounty for the first person who could produce evidence of the “smear campaign.”
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
Epic Games did not provide any evidence of a “smear campaign” or who may be behind it.
While some users online promised to delete the app, millions continue to use it across several countries.
Other Twitter users saw the funny side of the allegations.
"I'd urge EVERYONE to delete #houseparty. My car was stolen this afternoon and I was then robbed at gunpoint by a man in a balaclava, I've absolutely no doubt that houseparty is responsible for this. DELETE IT NOW," one user tweeted sarcastically.
I'd urge EVERYONE to delete #houseparty. My car was stolen this afternoon and I was then robbed at gunpoint by a man in a balaclava, I've absolutely no doubt that houseparty is responsible for this. DELETE IT NOW— Andy (@andyraepal) March 30, 2020
It was...............Rebekah Vardys account. Where’s my mill ?— lmwhu (@lmwhu) March 31, 2020
“It was...............Rebekah Vardys account. Where’s my mill ?” responded user @lmwhu, referring to last year’s public spat between British football wives Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy in which Rooney accused Vardy of leaking stories about her.
In a public post, Rooney dramatically explained how she exposed Vardy by blocking access to everyone on her Instagram except Vardy and then posted fake stories which subsequently appeared in British tabloid The Sun. The story captured the imagination of millions and spawned a range of online memes.