Raleigh cybersecurity expert recommends against using third-party social networking apps to talk to family

Wake County News

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — While North Carolina’s stay-at-home order remains in effect, an increasing number of people are turning online to stay in touch with family and friends.

However, cyber security experts warn against third party apps saying they can put people’s personal data at risk.

“I wanted to maintain my social distancing as well as connect with some of my friends. I’m definitely missing some of that social interaction that we have on a normal basis,” said Houseparty app user Lance Liggett.

Houseparty, owned by Cary-based Epic Games, allows users to video chat and play games with friends.

Recently the app came under fire with users claiming after downloading Houseparty their Netflix or Spotify accounts were hacked.

Houseparty denies those claims, going so far to offer a $1,000,000 bounty to anyone who can prove a breach.

“Now more than ever communities around the world need to be able to connect with each other. It’s a responsibility Houseparty takes seriously and why our team is dedicated to the safety and privacy of our millions of customers. The world trusts Houseparty to connect them when they need it most and we won’t let them down. The Houseparty app is safe for use on any mobile device and is protected by industry leading encryption, so your data and your experience are never in jeopardy,” said a Houseparty spokesperson in a statement.

Giovanni Masucci, president of National Digital Forensics, warns against using some third-party apps such as Zoom to communicate with loved ones.

“Zoom is able to be hacked,” said Masucci. “What I understand is Zoom is working to fix that problem.”

He suggests before downloading any third-party app, users should upgrade their device and have anti-virus and anti-malware protection installed.

“If you use any of this software, the biggest thing is that you have to make sure your devices are secured. That’s number one,” said Masucci.

Masucci also recommends taking a close look at an app’s privacy settings before downloading.

“Once you download and agree to it, it has access to your contacts, your pictures, your emails, even any contact on your device,” he said.

He also cautions against using apps with ads in them, saying those ads could contain malware.

Masucci highly recommends utilizing virtual private network or VPN when working from home, which provides a tunnel encrypted at both ends.

“It’s harder for someone to hack that VPN tunnel, that network, to gain access to any of your device information or your personal information,” he said.

Masucci suggests if users suspect something is going wrong with the app they are using, to disconnect from it immediately.

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