U.K. scientists build weapon to combat phishing, password theft

Aug. 23, 2013 at 5:27 PM
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LONDON, Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Researchers at a British university say they've developed technology to help protect people from "phishing" cyberattacks and online password theft.

In phishing attacks, criminals lure people to fake websites that look like real ones and encourage them to enter their log-in details, including passwords and sometimes personal and financial information.

Computer scientists from Royal Holloway University in London say they've devised a system named Uni-IDM that will enable people to create electronic identity cards for each website they access.

The virtual identity cards are then securely stored, allowing owners to simply click on the card when they want to log back in, safe in the knowledge that the data will only be sent to the authentic website, a university release reported Friday.

"We have known for a long time that the user name and password system is problematic and very insecure, proving a headache for even the largest websites," researcher Chris Mitchell of the university's Information Security Group said. "LinkedIn was hacked, and over 6 million stolen user passwords were then posted on a website used by Russian cyber criminals; Facebook admitted in 2011 that 600,000 of its user accounts were being compromised every single day.

"Despite this," Mitchell said, "user name and password remains the dominant technology, and while large corporations have been able to employ more secure methods, attempts to provide homes with similar protection have been unsuccessful, except in a few cases such as online banking."

The researchers said Uni-IDM is designed as a solution for people who will need to access the growing number government services going online, such as tax and benefits claims, with many of those people having little experience using the Internet.

"The hope is that our technology will finally make it possible to provide more sophisticated technology to protect all Internet users," Mitchell said.

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