Coronavirus: Zoom and Houseparty making users vulnerable to hackers as popularity booms during pandemic - reports

Two apps whose popularity has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic are both facing claims they make users vulnerable to hackers.

 Zoom and Houseparty both allow video conferencing between colleagues, students, friends or anyone else who wants the next best thing to face-to-face contact in the coronavirus era.

While Aotearoa is enduring the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown, the New Zealand Parliament Vimeo account is using Zoom to host Epidemic Response Committee meetings, which aim to ensure the Government's pandemic response is still scrutinised while Parliament is adjourned.

But the politicians in those meetings - like anyone else using Zoom - are apparently opening themselves up to malicious activity.

The FBI issued a warning this week over video-teleconferencing (VTC) hijacking or 'Zoom-bombing' after multiple incidences in the US.

And VTC hijacking is just the start of security and privacy concerns being raised about the app.

Zoom is also being accused by tech and media websites of having a bug that can be abused to steal Windows passwords, intentionally leaking the email addresses of its users and falsely claiming calls are end-to-end encrypted when they are not.

Apple had to release an update for Mac users last year to protect against a Zoom vulnerability, but just this week further security problems for Mac users of the app were exposed.

However, the reports of Houseparty users being hacked appear to be unsubstantiated rumours.

Social media users began posting screenshots online this week alleging they were being locked out of Netflix, Spotify and even their online banking after downloading Houseparty - but a Forbes investigation found there was "nothing of concern" with the app.

Epic Games, the company that owns the app, is even offering US$1 million as a reward to anyone who can prove the claims are part of professional sabotage campaign.

This week the app's official Twitter account posted the following: "We are investigating indications that the recent hacking rumours 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"

But there is one potential security issue with the app, though it's easily fixed. Houseparty users are advised that unless they use the app's function to 'lock' their video chats, uninvited participants may enter and share offensive content.