Phisher-besieged PayPal sends users faux log-in page
Error.com's missed opportunity
PayPal, the online payment service that is a major target of phishers, has been caught sending customer emails that confuse its own login page with a third-party landing site that offers spyware protection and a bevy of other products.
The faux hyperlink to secure.uninitialized.real.error.com was included in official emails PayPal sent to customers to confirm recent payments. PayPal advertised it as the official address to log in to the service. Recipients who configured their systems to read email as HTML wouldn't notice the link was incorrect unless they were paying close attention.
The snafu was the result of an internal PayPal error that was fixed on Tuesday, Michael Oldenburg, a spokesman for PayPal parent company eBay, wrote in an email. Oldenburg didn't respond to a reply email that asked how long the error had persisted.
Over the past few months, PayPal has been hit by a sophisticated attack that fraudulently bills customers for Skype (another eBay-owned company) and other services. The online payment service is frequently targeted by phishers who send out a barrage of spoofed emails that try to lure users to phony PayPal websites that trick them into revealing their login credentials.
The glitch caused users who clicked on the link to land at a non-existent page on the error.com domain. Had the error.com folks had malicious intent, the goof could have proved a golden opportunity since it presented customers with an email that was demonstrably shown to originate from PayPal.
"We're completely unaware of anything that would give us traffic" from PayPal, said Drew Griffin, director of business development for Reflex Publishing, the Florida-based company that owns error.com. "We have no clue as to how it got there. They should fix it."
This quick Yahoo search turned up this page showing a PayPal customer receiving the link more than two months ago. That's a long time for a financial services company to be sending their customers to an incorrect login page.
The Register uncovered the mystery link while investigating the rash of fraudulent Skype charges made against the accounts of PayPal customers and credit card holders. Oldenburg said members of eBay's Trust and Safety team are aggressively investigating the fraud.
On several occasions during our discussion, Oldenburg repeated the now-tired advice that users should never, ever click on links in emails, even when those emails are sent by a bank, merchant or PayPal. Instead, they should open a new browser window and manually type in the address.
Good, common sense, of course, but it would appear someone at PayPal has yet to receive the memo. Official PayPal emails continue to include links to the company's log-in page. ®
If the site is using the Accept-Language header to choose the language for the content it sends, and you're getting Spanish, then the obvious reason would be that your browser is setting the header to say that - check your browser settings.
But the site might be doing a location look-up on your IP address (bad assumption there: if someone is in a country, do they necessarily understand the language), in which case, if you are not in Spain, perhaps your ISP is using an IP block from there, or you are using a Spanish-located anonymising service, or your company's internet gateway is in Spain, or...
Apart from the translation resources required, there is no reason why the Chinese sites can't have an English-readable language link, so when an international company like Paypal that is deliberately addressing different language markets makes a mess like this, it annoys me.
We have the technology, we don't have the common sense or the will.
I see only squares.
They aren't Spaniard Spanish sites, they are simply orphaned pages from the arpanet circa 1968 requested by a 2K modem and finally finding a computer of similar vintage to display them on.
I've always wondered what happened to the pages I requested when IE hangs and I press cntrl/alt/del, no doubt they will turn up in 2030
I can see your 繁體中文 as well, thank you.
My grudge with Accept-Language sites has been that, for some reason, they insist I live in Spain; so not only am I served with Spaniard Spanish (who insist on calling files "microfilms/small cards" and computers "sorting machines"), but I'm also served in some sites with EU pricing! ZoneAlarm, in fact, wanted to sell me the ZA Suite at a premium, as the US site sells it for $45/year, but the Spaniard site sells it for €45. (Hey, it looks like the UK isn't the only one being shafted with the $/£ swaps!)
I wonder why the Chinese sites can't have an English-readable language link. My good ole' Fujitsu Lifebook 280Dx had its BIOS set up with Japanese as the default language; however there was a nice "(Language)" option which was obviously there written in both Japanese and English so anyone who can't read Japanese could easily switch to a readable language.