PayPal Virus On The Loose
The virus, known as MiMail.J, has been tagged with a 'high risk' warning by security experts after making rapid progress across the globe.
According to reports, this high-tech phishing scheme attempts to con users who have signed up for PayPal's financial services into giving out their credit card and bank account numbers.
The most heavily targeted operating systems are Microsoft Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT, Me, and XP.
MiMail.J, which first appeared last week as MiMail.I - a less sophisticated variant but with the same intent to scam users out of bank account information - appears in email in-boxes under the guise of a notice from PayPal asking the user to update personal financial information before their account expires.
The virus piggy-backs as an attachment on what appears to be a legitimate PayPal-generated email, but once opened, it copies itself to other addresses in the user's email browser. The attachment is labeled as either InfoUpdate.exe or www.paypal.com.pif.
According to reports, the email requests information including social security numbers, PIN numbers, credit card expiration dates, and the maiden name of the user's mother.
MiMail.J tags itself in the subject line of the email as saying either, "Important," or "Your PayPal Account Expires." Security analysts are advising email users to delete the email immediately before opening it.
The text in the email even adds a tone of concern for email recipients by adding, "Please do not send your personal information through email, as it will not be as secure," and encourages users to submit their information directly to the attachment.
Once the verification information is submitted, the virus sends the financial information to a remote server and the user is officially vulnerable to identity theft or a raid on their bank account.
Security experts are saying that MiMail is the first of its breed among other notable viruses to deliberately go after users personal financial information.
A similar virus was launched in May of this year that attempted to scam PayPal users out of personal banking and credit card information.
Under a similar front as a "verification" notice from PayPal, the email claimed that PayPal had launched an anti-fraud initiative that required the recipient to verify their account information on a particular website.
The website, closely resembling a page from PayPal's own website, asked the user to input their name, address, birth date, credit card numbers, social security number, mother's maiden name, checking account numbers, and ATM codes, according to reports.
Security experts said that the virus originated in Lithuania.
Representatives for PayPal were not available for comment.