updated 7/26/2005 7:53:21 AM ET 2005-07-26T11:53:21

The increase in identity theft has prompted two Stanford University professors to develop software that protects computer passwords from Internet thieves.

John Mitchell and Dan Boneh will unveil Pwdhash, software that scrambles passwords typed into Web sites, then creates a unique sign-on for each site visited, at the Usenix Security Symposium in Baltimore next week.

It's the latest attempt to thwart attempts by cyber-criminals who steal passwords by creating phony online banking or e-commerce sites.  Cyber criminals dupe victims into believing the site is legitimate and lure them into typing their passwords.  The crooks then use the password to loot the victim's bank account. 

For e-commerce shoppers, many of whom have stored credit card information at their favorite online stores, the thieves may use their information to go on a shopping spree.

Last year, Mitchell and Boneh developed SpoofGuard, which inspects Web sites users visit and hunts for clues the site may be bogus.  The technology pores over URLs, graphics, and links.  When there's something wrong, the software notifies the user.

All the security tools are free browser plug-ins available at Stanford's Web site.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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