Clubhouse falls prey to security breach amidst review of data protection practices

Invite-only audio app Clubhouse was a recent victim of a data breach after multiple media reports including Bloomberg said at least one attacker has proven that its live audio can be stolen. Quoting Clubhouse's spokesperson, Bloomberg said over the weekend, "an unidentifiable user" could stream Clubhouse audio feeds from "multiple rooms into their own third-party website". Bloomberg said the user has been "permanently banned" and Clubhouse has put in place "new safeguards" to prevent the reoccurrence of such a situation.

This comes a week after Clubhouse said it is reviewing its data protection practices following a Stanford Internet Observatory report that the app has security flaws that "left users' data vulnerable to access by the Chinese government". Despite Clubhouse being banned in China, Reuters reported that some users had found a loophold to download the app. This meant that the conversations they participated in could be transmitted via Chinese servers, Reuters added.

Clubhouse said in a statement to Stanford Internet Observatory that with the help of the latter's researchers, it has identified a few areas where it can further strengthen its data protection. For example, for a small percentage of its traffic, network pings containing the user ID are sent to servers around the globe—which can include servers in China—to determine the fastest route to the client.

"Over the next 72 hours, we are rolling out changes to add additional encryption and blocks to prevent Clubhouse clients from ever transmitting pings to Chinese servers. We also plan to engage an external data security firm to review and validate these changes," Clubhouse said previously. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Clubhouse for comment on the recent data breach.

As of last month, Clubhouse has two million downloads on the App Store, market intelligence company Sensor Tower said. It exploded in popularity after Tesla founder Elon Musk hosted an audio-chat on Clubhouse with Robinhood CEO Vald Tenev on the platform. Since then, industry players in Asia including AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Fave founder Joel Neoh, Grab group VP of marketing Cheryl Goh, and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and AI expert Kai-Fu Lee, have scheduled chats on the platform. Clubhouse was founded by Alpha Exploration Co. which is led by CEO Paul Davison.

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