PayPal scam warning: Millions of vulnerable users are at risk of hackers | Personal Finance

In mid January, Cyber security analysts from CyberNews claim they alerted PayPal to six vulnerabilities through its bug-reporting system. Three were fixed, but the remaining three which, according to CyberNews are the most serious, are still live. PayPal reportedly are denying that two of them are its own responsibility to handle.

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The correspondence between CyberNews and PayPal appears to have taken a sour turn, as Bernard Meyer, the Senior Researcher at CyberNews who undertook the research, exclusively revealed to express.co.uk: “We are making these vulnerabilities public to warn its 305 million account holders and compel PayPal to fix them before hackers exploit these security flaws. There is no reason why this cannot be done almost immediately given the size of their resources.

“If you read its blurb, you will think that PayPal gives a lot of money to ethical hackers that find bugs. For instance, in 2018 PayPal announced a maximum bug bounty of $30,000 – a pretty nice sum.

“But the reality is somewhat different. For instance, when our analysts discovered six vulnerabilities in PayPal that put its millions of users’ money at risk, we were met with unresponsive staff, vague responses and often denial.

“When we pushed, its team then removed points from our Reputation score, relegating our profiles on its system to a suspicious, spammy level.

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Hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in existing systems (Image: GETTY)

Online shopping

The rise of online shopping has led to a huge rise in scams (Image: GETTY)

“This happened even though issues we raised were subsequently patched: although we received no bounty, credit, nor even a thanks. Instead, we were worse off than if we hadn’t said anything! Nor are we the only ethical hackers to experience this.”

CyberNews provided details on what the vulnerabilities are and how hackers can take advantage of them all by attaining the users email and password from the dark web:

Bypassing PayPal’s two- factor authentication (2FA) – This would allow a hacker to get into an account and steal money from it. The hacker could keep spending the victim’s more until the account is empty or until the victim notices the problem

Phone verification without One-Touch Password – Hackers don’t need to verify their phones, which makes it easier to create fraudulent accounts. This will be especially problematic for hacked accounts as it is very hard for victims to get their accounts back. This is due to the hacker changing the phone number, meaning the victim can’t confirm that it’s theirs.

Overcoming PayPal’s automatic security measures – These measures are triggered when suspicious activities occur. However, hackers can easily bypass these security features designed to prevent suspicious transactions.

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Mr Meyer detailed that the situation is currently dire with PayPal but there are actions users can take to protect themselves: “It is well known that PayPal users’ access details – their email address and passwords – are widely available on the internet’s Dark Web.

“Often it is because people ignore advice and use the same password for various websites, and sometimes because their computer is infected with keystroke malware that detects valuable passwords.

“Because of this PayPal and other sites such as Amazon and banks use two-factor authentication so if an important change is made to the account this is double-checked, for instance through a security code being texted to the user’s mobile phone.

“We alerted it last month that this double-check can currently be bypassed in PayPal, rendering it ineffective to any hacker who gains a person’s email and PayPal password – which are sadly available right now on the Dark Web for as little as $1.50 {£1.16} each.

“Sadly, its response to us was to say it wasn’t an issue for them to rectify.”

Precautions

Precautions can be taken to protect yourself from vulnerabilities (Image: GETTY)

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“Our expectation is that PayPal will quickly fix these problems now we are shining a light on them.

“Your best defence is to have a unique password for PayPal and to have up-to-date paid for, not free, anti-virus software. Note that even Android smartphones can pick up viruses.

“If still concerned, PayPal account holders, which number over 305 million worldwide, should consider getting a ‘virtual credit card’ (VCC). “These are well-established and allow you to spend online while protecting your card details, even if hackers get into your account. Most banks and card-providers provide these.

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Too late

Often by the time someone realises they have been hacked it’s too late to act (Image: GETTY)

“Also there are multiple services, such as privacy.com, that protect your card details and also allow you to set caps on how much can be purchased from different vendors.

“Keeping a one-time use VCC for payments, or turning it off after your shopping spree is completed, prevents hackers from accessing your funds even if they get into your PayPal account.

“Besides that, we recommend people should never hold any balance in PayPal or any other payment system, except for your bank. This is because scammers target users even with very small amounts on their PayPal account.

“If you don’t have money in your PayPal account, hackers won’t have any motivation to target you and will move onto someone else.

“Finally, make sure you don’t link your cards as, if your PayPal account is accessed, then a scammer can top it up and get their hands-on the money from your bank or credit card.”

In response to CyberNews’s findings, a spokesperson from PayPal detailed: “PayPal takes all Bug Bounty programme submissions seriously and reviews each with an appropriate sense of priority.

“We appreciate the submissions from Bernard Meyer at CyberNews. However, after review, we found that the issues raised did not pose a threat. Accordingly, the tickets were correctly closed in PayPal’s online bug bounty platform provider, HackerOne. Any changes to CyberNews’ HackerOne reputation score is a result of reports submitted to HackerOne that are deemed to be invalid vulnerabilities.”