PayPal Battles Phishing with…Key Fobs

It’s no secret that online payment service PayPal—and its parent company eBay—are the favorite targets of phishers and other online scam artists. If they can trick any of the companies’ millions of users into disclosing their account information, the now-captive accounts become wonderful avenues for laundering money, putting on get-rich-quick schemes, selling stolen merchandize, and any number of other nefarious online activities.

PayPal wants its customers to be confident in its services, so it’s rolling out a new PayPal Security Key, a key fob which provides one-time-use password as an additional login credential for PayPal account holders. The PayPal Security Key takes the form of a key fob, and is similar to technologies employed by banks and other financial institutions with high-capital customers and major account holders. Basically, the PayPal Security Key generates a unique six-digital security code every 30 second; users enter the current code as an additional credential when they log into their PayPal account. Even if phishers, scam artists, or Internet criminals somehow get their hand’s on an account’s username and password, they won’t be able to access the account without the current six-digital passcode from the PayPal Security Key. The PayPal Security Key will also work with eBay accounts.

Users will still be able to log into their PayPal or eBay accounts of they lose or damage their PayPal Security Key, but will have to confirm their account ownership before being given access.

PayPal isn’t touting the Security Key as any kind of panacea from fraud, but offers the Security Key as one more layer of security, which may be of particular interest to customers to conduct a large number of transactions through PayPal or eBay, engage in high-value transactions, or simply want the additional protection. The PayPal Security Key is free for PayPal Business Accounts; other accounts will be charged a $5 non-refundable fee.

(If you’re curious, a six-digit code generator can, in theory, make a new code every 30 seconds for almost a year without producing a duplicate number.)

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