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Houseparty Denies Viral Hacking Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty for Proof of Smear Campaign

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  • Users of the group video chat service Houseparty have complained that their online accounts like Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and even bank accounts were hacked after downloading the app. 
  • Houseparty said it found no evidence to suggest a link between its app and the hacking of unrelated accounts. 
  • The app also believes the rumors are part of a “commercial smear campaign” against it and are offering a $1 million dollar bounty for evidence that proves this. 
  • Forbes enlisted a cybersecurity expert who found no obvious dangers with the app, but damage to Houseparty’s reputation may have already been done as people continue to urge others to delete it.

Hacking Accusations Surface 

Houseparty is now the latest group video-chatting app to come under fire over privacy concerns, but the app is fighting back, aggressively denying recent data breach rumors. 

People forced indoors all over the world during the coronavirus pandemic have been turning to video-chatting apps over the last few weeks, not only for school and business meetings but also for virtual gatherings with friends and family. 

With apps like Zoom facing increased criticism over data sharing policies, meeting crashers, and other issues, many have instead opted to download its “fun” competitor, Houseparty, which features in-app group games like Heads Up!, QuickDraw!, and Trivia. 

But over the last few days, Houseparty users have been complaining on social media that their non-related accounts were compromised, including Instagram, Netflix, Spotify, and online-banking accounts, among others.

Many have suggested that the Epic Games owned app is in some way the reason for this.

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Houseparty Denies Rumors, Offers $1M Bounty

On Monday, an Epic Games spokesperson issued a statement saying, “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,” it added. 

The company also took to Twitter to assure users that its “service is secure, has never been compromised, and doesn’t collect passwords for other sites.”

Later that same evening, the app launched more aggressive measures to shut down the hacking rumors, saying, “We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumors were spread by a paid commercial smear campaign to harm Houseparty.”

The company even said it was offering a $1 million dollar bounty “for the first individual to provide proof of such a campaign.”  

Is Houseparty Safe? 

So is the app actually safe to use? Well, no app can be guaranteed 100% secure, but it seems like as of now, there are no dangerous flaws that have been found. Forbes released a report examining the app and enlisted cybersecurity and privacy researcher Lukas Stefanko to take a look at the Android version of it. Stefanko ultimately determined that there was nothing of concern. 

“I analyzed the app’s permissions usage and since the app provides video chats with your friends it is logical that requested permissions are necessary. I haven’t found any shady misusing of them by the app,” said Stefanko said. “The app doesn’t provide a lot of in-app options and settings, which creates less scenarios for exploiting security issues.”

From a privacy perspective, the Forbes report said there is one obvious issue that some might want to note before downloading. That is that the app’s games are open to any of your friends and any of your friends’ friends unless you lock the “room” where you’re playing. 

So essentially if you don’t lock rooms down, there’s a chance people you don’t know will invade your game. However, the report noted that there is an easy fix for this issue: simply hitting the padlock button at the bottom of the screen.

As far as its privacy policy, the report again said there was nothing outrageous there as well. They did say that the most concerning language in the policy says that the app can collect “anonymized and aggregated information, such as de-identified demographic information” and “de-identified location information.” The issue here is that even when location data is “de-identified,” it’s still possible to find out who the person is by linking it with other information.  

And while the app collects contacts so you can find friends to play with, the company promises that it “will never share your phone number or the phone numbers of third parties in your contacts with anyone else.”

Forbes noted that there is the standard warning that user data can be used for more targeted advertising and if you’re concerned enough about that, they provided specific steps you can take to boost privacy and still use the app. 

Thomas Brewster, the Security, surveillance and privacy reporter who wrote the Forbes report, later tweeted that he had reached out to a few different researchers for their opinion. They too had not found any notable security issues with Houseparty.

So as of now, it seems like the app is fine to use, but some don’t seem too convinced. The damage to Houseparty’s reputation may already be done as social media users continue to urge one another to delete the app altogether. However, we’ll all have to wait and see if Houseparty’s interesting efforts to debunk the rumor pay off in the future. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Engadget) (BBC)

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Candace Owens and Logan Paul in Talks to Debate

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A spokesperson confirmed to Insider Wednesday that the two have had “productive” conversations about the prospect offline.


Candace Owens Challenges Logan Paul to a Debate

Right-wing commentator Candace Owens and controversial YouTuber Logan Paul are in talks to engage in a political debate. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. 

Owens — best known for making false claims about the George Floyd protests, spreading COVID-19 misinformation, and seemingly saying that Adolf Hitler “just wanted to make Germany great” — first challenged Paul to a debate on Friday. It started with her sharing a year-old clip from Paul’s podcast where he spoke about the importance of fighting racism in the United States. 

“It is not enough to be ‘not racist.’ You have to be anti-racist,” he said.

“If you’re white, if you look like me, use your privilege,” he added. “And for those who do not think white privilege exists, you are fucking blind.” 

Because merely acknowledging the existence of racism appears to go against Owens’ core beliefs, she asked Paul to duke it out with her. 

“Logan loves to challenge people in the boxing ring,” she wrote. “I’d like to publicly challenge him to go a few rounds with me in a political debate. @LoganPaul—how about you stop by my show and explain to me how you’re *checks notes* more privileged than me because you’re white and I’m not?”

Spokesperson Confirms The Two Are in Talks

Paul  — best known for launching a boxing career and filming a YouTube video that showed a dead body in Japan’s “suicide forest” — said on Tuesday that he was “perplexed” by the offer, but was taking it seriously. 

I started to entertain this action, I ended up speaking with her, and there may be a future where we sit down and have a civil discourse because I think there’s some meat on this bone,” he said during the most recent episode of his “ImPaulsive” podcast. 

The internet star acknowledged that Owens’ main arena is politics, while his main arena is being a “fucking idiot” online. Still, he said he does care about these issues and has a “semi-intelligent brain,” so he thinks he could “hold [his] own.”

“Candace Owens, whether you can admit it or not, is a smart person,” Paul continued. “And so I guess I’m just curious because I just fucking fundamentally disagree with her and again, I think there’s room for a conversation.” 

A spokesperson for Owens confirmed to Insider on Wednesday that the two had a “productive” offline conversation and said a public political debate between the two is “very likely.”

“Although both of them disagree on a variety of topics, they are both much more interested in learning from one another and think people would benefit from hearing an honest discussion between two parties rather than a ‘gotcha’ moment that might play well for social media,” the spokesperson added.

See what others are saying: (Insider)

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Finneas Slams Billie Eilish Troll Account for Attributing Fake Quotes to the Singer

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Eilish’s big brother said the account is spreading “relentless lies” and asked that it at least label itself as a satire account.


Troll Account Shares Fake Billie Eilish Quotes

Billie Eilish’s brother and collaborator Finneas took to Twitter Tuesday to address an account that has been sharing fake quotes attributed to his sister.

The account uses the handle @BilliesUpdatess and goes by the name of “Billie Eilish Updates” in its profile. It was created in July of 2021 and as of Wednesday morning, it had amassed a following of 1,100 people. On a quick glance, it looks just like any other update account a fan might make to share news about their favorite celebrity.

@BilliesUpdatess, however, is far from the standard adoring fan page. Of the over 300 tweets it has posted, several include screenshots of forged articles that make it look like Eilish said something either offensive or totally outlandish. One post claims Eilish defended her boyfriend after he was accused of supporting former president Donald Trump.

“At the end of the day, I fucking love him you know?” the phony statement reads. “It doesn’t matter if he made some homophobic comments in the past, people change. If he [Matthew] supports Donald Trump then I don’t care if it makes him happy. I support EVERY decision Mathew has to make, even the ones some of my fans don’t agree with, like maybe some of his icky comments.”

Screenshot @BilliesUpdatess

In another sham passage, Eilish says she thinks queerbaiting “is a really good thing!” In several others, the person behind the account comes up with artificial quotes to make it looks like Eilish is feuding with “driver’s license” singer Olivia Rodrigo. 

Screenshot @BilliesUpdatess

One post with a fake article ended up being retweeted 12,000 times. That tweet included Eilish claiming she longs to be poor.

Screenshot @BilliesUpdatess

“When I got rich, I started balling my eyes out,” the fake piece says. “I wanted to be poor so I can relate to most of my fans. I still want to be broke and poor, it looks really fun and cute.”

Finneas Slams Account

As the troll account started to gain traction, Finneas asked that people report and block it to minimize the spread of its “relentless lies.”

On Tuesday, he responded to a fan that tagged him in the @BilliesUpdatess tweet alleging his sister wanted to be poor. 

“Fake obviously,” Finneas wrote. “Honestly I just wish they’d label this account satire like the onion or something. I have no problem with a joke as long as people know it’s a joke.”

Screenshot @BilliesUpdatess

The account made several jokes about the fact that Finneas was calling it out, but it seems Eilish’s big brother got what he asked for. @BilliesUpdatess added “parody account” to its bio and the account was deleted as of Wednesday afternoon.

See what others are saying: (NME) (Uproxx) (E! News)

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Britney Spears’ Attorney Files Petition To Oust Father as Conservator

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Spears’ new attorney, Mathew Rosengart, said there are “serious questions” regarding “potential misconduct, including conflicts of interest [and] conservatorship abuse.”


Mathew Rosengart Petitions Court To Remove Jamie Spears

Britney Spears’ attorney, Mathew Rosengart, filed a petition Monday to remove the singer’s father, Jamie Spears, as her financial conservator. 

Jamie Spears has served as his daughter’s financial conservator for 13 years. In the filing, Rosengart said the elder Spears “profited handsomely” from the position. He asked that Jamie be replaced with a Certified Public Accountant named Jason Rubin, who Rosengart described as “objectively intelligent” and “highly qualified” for the job. 

The petition is 120 pages long and contained scathing remarks about Jamie. Britney has made it clear she wants him removed from the conservatorship, which she wants to be terminated entirely. During a statement in June, she called the situation “abusive” and specifically condemned her father. 

“He loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000%. He loved it,” she said.

Rosengart has promised to be a stronger advocate for Britney than her previous lawyer, Samuel Ingham, was. He seems to be following through on his word by challenging Jamie’s status as a conservator just weeks after being appointed Britney’s attorney. 

“Serious questions abound concerning Mr. Spears’s potential misconduct, including conflicts of interest, conservatorship abuse and the evident dissipation of Ms. Spears’s fortune,” he wrote. 

The petition claims that Jamie made at least $2.1 million from Britney’s residency in Las Vegas, snagging a 1.5% cut of gross revenues and merchandise. It also claims that he paid himself $16,000 a month from Britney’s estate, which is $2,000 more than he gave Britney. On top of that, Jamie reportedly took another $2,000 for business purposes. 

Rosengart wrote that while it might be common for a manager or agent to make this kind of money, someone in Jamie’s position should not be. 

“He is a conservator, and, as a conservator, his role is to be burdened by, rather than benefit from, the conservatorship.”

Britney’s Mother Speaks Out

Both Britney’s personal conservator, Jodi Montgomery, and her mother, Lynne Spears, gave statements in the filings echoing the need for Jamie to be removed from his role. Montgomery emphasized that his departure was necessary for the singer’s welfare.

“It would be best for Ms. Spears’ well-being and mental health that her father stop acting as her conservator,’ she wrote. 

Lynne did not hold back on criticizing Jamie, saying Britney’s relationship with her father has “dwindled to nothing but fear and hatred” because of the control he exerts over her. She also claimed that he relied on Britney’s house staff, medical aides, and security team to “inform on and report back to him each and every detail of every action” in his daughter’s life.

“Such scrutiny is exhausting and terrifying, like living in custody,” she said. 

This petition does not terminate the conservatorship fully, but Rosengart said that could be something the court has to examine one day further down the line. 

“There might well come a time when the court will be called upon to consider whether the conservatorship should be terminated in its entirety and whether — in addition to stripping his daughter of her dignity, autonomy and certain fundamental liberties — Mr. Spears is also guilty of misfeasance or malfeasance warranting the imposition of surcharges, damages or other legal action against him,” Rosengart wrote.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (NBC News) (New York Times)

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