How PayPal is staying ahead of cyber thieves this holiday season

Inside PayPal's command center

This year’s Cyber Monday could land in the record books, with projected sales of nearly $3.4 billion – up 10 percent from last year. Online sales through the holiday season could soar to more than $91 billion. 

Online payment giant PayPal expects a more than 40 percent growth in total payment volume over last year. Only on “CBS This Morning,” CBS News correspondent John Blackstone got a tour of PayPal’s command center in San Jose, California, where the company is making sure cyber criminals are kept at bay. 

PayPal offers consumers a way to pay online without revealing their personal information to retailers. But all Cyber Monday payments represented on this globe have to be kept safe and out of the hands of cyber thieves.
 
At PayPal’s command center, purchases are monitored around the world and around the clock.
 
“We have risk models that we have gotten better and better over the years from all the learning that we’ve done to identify when we are seeing fraudulent transactions,” said MJ Austin, a technology executive at PayPal.

On Cyber Monday, the team monitored a torrent of financial activity in 100 currencies and in over 200 countries.

“So somebody -- a human staring at a screen there gets a notice: ‘Hey, you better check up on this, this looks a little fishy,’” Blackstone said.

“That’s exactly what happens,” Austin said. “There’s a bunch of smarts behind the actual monitoring and through that monitoring we are able to highlight only those things that seem unusual.”

But the sheer volume of transactions makes combating cybercrime a daunting task.
 
On Cyber Monday 2015, PayPal processed  $25,000 a second -- so much traffic PayPal’s website crashed.

“We had a couple of small intermittent outages during that time but the reality is that most consumers were not at all impacted,” Austin said. 

PayPal was also one of the companies that shut down last month when hackers struck a company whose servers route internet traffic. The hack also infiltrated devices like web cams, smart clocks and digital recorders.
 
“It’s basically like a bunch of attackers knocking at the door of the bank,” explained CNET editor-at-large Tim Stevens. “They’re not necessarily getting into the bank, but they’re preventing anybody else from getting into the bank. So ultimately it’s not necessarily a question of data being exposed, or customers being at risk or the data being at risk; it’s just that the service itself is being shut down.”

PayPal said no customer information was stolen. Still, Stevens wonders about the future.

“The next evolution of this  attack is ultimately more devices. As more and more of these smart devices are going forward, they are going to be compromised in new ways,” Stevens said.

Cyber Monday following Thanksgiving is of course an American creation, but PayPal tracked lots of action in Europe and Asia as well, which shows it’s become a worldwide shopping holiday.