#parent | #kids | Houseparty warning: users claim app allows hackers to steal YOUR data

Enraged Houseparty users have voiced concerns on social media that the hugely-successful video chat app, which has seen a surge in popularity after strict self-isolation rules rolled out by the UK Government forced millions to stay at home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, has enabled hackers to access their Spotify and Netflix accounts. Taking to Twitter, dozens of users claim the smartphone and desktop application enabled the hack – and told everyone to “delete your Houseparty account” as soon as possible.

If you have used the same email address and password for your Houseparty as other popular apps – like Netflix or Spotify, it’s worth changing immediately to something unique. Check Have I Been Pwned to find out whether your login credentials for Houseparty – or any app – has leaked online and is being used by cyber criminals.

A spokesperson for Houseparty told Express.co.uk: “We’ve found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts. 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.”

Meanwhile, the official Houseparty account on Twitter adds: “All Houseparty accounts are safe – the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

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Privacy specialists at Farrer & Co have publicly issued guidance that warns that hackers and criminals can exploit flaws within Houseparty’s systems to access highly sensitive data. Farrer associate Thomas Rudkin told MailOnline that users should consider using end-to-end encrypted platforms, like FaceTime and WhatsApp.

“With video conferencing apps, there are also always concerns about how hackers and criminals might exploit them,” said Mr Rudkin. “While Houseparty has extensive restrictions on who can join chats, risks may arise due to people making contacts on Facebook and then being asked to connect with them on Houseparty.

“Houseparty – like many US tech platforms – has extensive data collection rights in its privacy policy, to include ‘information submitted via the services’.”

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For those who don’t know, Houseparty – which is available on iPhone, iPad, Android, macOS, and Google Chrome – is a video chat application that lets you drop-in and drop-out of video chats with friends. The app was originally imagined for University students to keep open throughout the day, with people dropping in for chats every so often whenever they wanted to talk.

Since then, a number of games, including a trivia quiz, Pictionary-style game, and others, have been added that can be played with friends in the chat.

Whenever you open the app on your computer or smartphone, a notification will be sent out to all of your friends, letting them know that you’re “in the house” and ready to video call. You can drop into any active conversations that your friends are holding – even if you don’t know everyone in their video chat – unless one of the participants decides to “lock the room”.

This has led to a number of horror stories from users, with Houseparty users reporting ex-partners suddenly appearing in video chats out of nowhere. Bosses and teachers have also purportedly appeared in video chats while people have been talking in the bath.

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As such, campaigning charity Internet Matters has warned the app could represent a threat to youngsters by enabling strangers to enter their private chats. It has warned parents to make children aware of the importance of “locking” their video calls to stay safe.

The charity also warned that despite a 12+ age rating in app stores – it’s very easy for younger users to sign-up for an account due to the lack of an effective age verification process.

Houseparty can access the contacts app on your smartphone to find friends who are already using the app. Snapchat, Facebook and other popular social networks’ contact lists can also be imported into the app to see who has already signed-up to Houseparty.

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