Is Houseparty Safe? Video App Denies Hack, Offers $1 Million Reward for Proof of 'Paid Commercial Smear Campaign'

Viral video calling app Houseparty has suggested social media speculation about a hack may have been a "paid commercial smear campaign" designed to harm the company.

The software, owned by video game publisher Epic Games, has enjoyed a surge in popularity during COVID-19-related lockdowns and quarantines, but rumors surfaced this week that the app had been linked to the hacking of Netflix, Spotify, Snapchat and even personal bank accounts.

Houseparty's developers stressed accounts are safe and the service is "secure, has never been compromised, and doesn't collect passwords for other sites."

In a statement, the company said it would offer a reward for proof the speculation had been started intentionally - although did not reveal further information about the claim.

Houseparty wrote: "We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty."

It added: "We are offering a $1,000,000 bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign to bounty@houseparty.com. We have spent the past few weeks feeling humbled and grateful that we can be such a large part of bringing people together during such a hard time."

Epic Games and Houseparty have been contacted for additional comment by Newsweek.

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 bounty@houseparty.com.

— Houseparty (@houseparty) March 31, 2020

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

In a statement to the BBC, an Epic Games spokesperson said: "We've found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts."

A spokeswoman for Houseparty told Business Insider users are urged to create strong passwords on all platforms—appearing to suggest any "hacks" may have been from credential reuse.

"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," she said.

It remains unclear where, and when, the hacking claims first originated in the whirlpool of social media chatter, but there is little evidence so far that the app is causing account intrusions.

Houseparty is a spin on traditional video calling that lets its up to eight participants take part in games while chatting with friends and family. Epic Games is the creator of video game sensation Fortnite. The company acquired the social video application in June 2019. It was first launched back in 2016.

BEWARE! I know I’m not the only one with this problem! A few of my friends have been hacked by @houseparty if you look at the twitter feed! They log into your Spotify from Russia. Get your bank details and can hack it. It’s very simple once you click agree to terms and conditions pic.twitter.com/kBKU7dMUyd

— ellieb (@ellielaurenb) March 30, 2020

Hahah right just seen that Houseparty can hack your phone so tried to delete my account and thought this was weird af pic.twitter.com/v4o2TFG9E8

— leah (@leahgardinerxxx) March 30, 2020

To operate, the app does sync with contacts from some other social media apps including Facebook and Snapchat but does not extend its reach to unrelated services like Netflix or Spotify. However some users suggested on Twitter that the further intrusions were linked to email compromise.

Some tweets suggesting a hack had taken place called for a boycott or deletion of the Houseparty app, and urging users to disconnect it from other social profiles before removing it from devices.

"The hacking reports were probably just because of password resuse or brute forcing or phishing," cyber security expert Robert Pritchard told Newsweek. "I can't see how installing Houseparty could get your Netflix or bank account hacked. In some ways it's not a bad response. If they don't believe it themselves then they're never going to have to pay out, and it gets their denial in the headlines."

Analytics from Apptopia, obtained by VentureBeat, said Houseparty's worldwide daily downloads had jumped from 24,795 per day on February 15 2020 to 651,694 per day on March 25 2020.

Statistics from tracking firm AppAnnie said weekly Houseparty downloads in Italy between March 15 and March 21 surged by about 423-times the level of average weekly downloads in Q4 2019.

Houseparty
Houseparty is a video calling application that surged in popularity during the COVID-19 outbreak. It has denied reports of a hack. Houseparty/Press