As well as creating the Unreal Engine, making Fortnite, running their own games store, and publishing games, Epic Games apparently also own a group video chat programme named Houseparty? I too had missed their purchase announcement last year, until current events dragged it into headlines. Houseparty are currently offering a $1,000,000 (£790k) bounty if someone can prove “a paid commercial smear campaign” is behind recent rumours that the software is hacking other apps on people’s phones. Everyone’s getting on video party chat now, y’know, and the battle to dominate it might be a dirty one.
Houseparty offers group video chats on iOS, Android, and MacOS, as well as in a browser version. What with the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, digiface-to-digiface chats are desirable to a whole lot more people now – and a whole lot of companies would like a share of that. Houseparty has gained a huge number of users, becoming #1 in the Apple App Store’s social networking category, but this week Epic’s slice of the chatpie has been threatened by scurrilous talk of shady shenanigans.
As reported by sites as varied as the New Statesman and the Skegness Standard, rumours have circulated on Twitter and around that the Houseparty phone app ‘hacks’ into other apps and accounts such as Netflix and even banks.
Houseparty denied this, insisting on Monday that “All Houseparty accounts are safe – the service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.” Epic added in a statement to the BBC that they have “found no evidence to suggest a link between Houseparty and the compromises of other unrelated accounts.” And they believe that the rumours are more than merely mistaken – they’re malicious.
“We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumours were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty,” the company tweeted overnight. “We are offering a $1,000,000 bounty for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign to email@example.com.”
So they don’t have proof that it’s a commercial smear campaign.
Epic nabbed Houseparty in 2019. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said at the time, “By teaming up, we can build even more fun, shared experiences than what could be achieved alone.”
I know I should be immune to surprise by this point of 2020, and yet