A TouchPad for $US49? Maybe if you're Rick Astley

A $49 TouchPad site offers a lesson in social engineering - and Rickrolling

With geeks still scrambling to get their hands on the last of Hewlett-Packard's US$99 TouchPads, a $US49 deal just seems too good to be true.

And, as the thousand or so people who tried to buy cheap TouchPads on an HP look-alike website Tuesday learned, one should steer clear of things that seem too good to be true.

The prank site -- registered Tuesday as Hewlett-packard.org.uk -- looks legitimate. In fact, many of the links on the site go to real HP addresses.

But anyone who tries to buy the $US49 TouchPad gets Rickrolled. It's a popular type of Internet prank where the victim clicks on a seemingly irresistible link -- a $US49 TouchPad, or a sneak copy of a Kim Kardashian wedding video -- and ends up instead sitting through a YouTube clip of schmaltzy soul singer Rick Astley singing his 1987 hit, Never Gonna Give You Up.

Clicking on the TouchPad's "Add to Cart" button brings up the Rick Astley video and the line, "srry no hp touchpad! looooool," along with a running count of how many people have been fooled (925 as this article was completed).

The prank website is registered by Phillip Sullivan of Los Angeles. Sullivan could not be reached Tuesday, and it's unclear whether the name is a pseudonym.

Corporations typically register domain names, even if they don't intend to use them, but in this case, the prankster was able to register a believable-looking domain, hewlett-packard.org.uk, that HP hadn't managed to snatch up.

The site could have been used for something much worse than a harmless prank, according to the Social-Engineering.org website, which first blogged about the prank HP site on Tuesday. "If this were actually a malicious scammer how many people would have clicked?" Social-Engineering.org wrote on its blog. "How many would have inserted credit card info?"

This isn't the first phoney TouchPad site to pop up. Yesterday HP warned about another fake TouchPad site, called Hptouchpadsale.com. "IT IS FAKE!! Do not buy from there," HP spokeswoman Bryna Corcoran said in a Twitter message.

Last week, HP announced it was killing off its iPad competitor due to poor sales. But when it slashed retail prices to $US99 it transformed the TouchPad from a flop to a hot item. The TouchPad initially sold for $US499.

Most U.S. retailers sold out of the devices quickly when the sale began Saturday, but people are still trying to find them online.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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