PayPal is offering a new security key fob to increase the level of protection for its users against unauthorised payments.

PayPal, which is owned by eBay, has gone one step further than sites that simply ask users for their user name and password. A beta test of the key will be available in the United States, Australia and Germany initially and will be brought to the UK later this year.

A unique six-digit security code is generated by the key every 30 seconds so each time the user logs into their PayPal account a different security code will be given for them to enter along with their user name and password. This code will then expire to stop anyone else using it.

The technology could come as a welcome safeguard to PayPal users. Security firm Sophos scanned all phishing messages received in its global network of spam traps during 2006 and said that over 74 percent of those emails targeted eBay or PayPal users.

The pocket-sized key fob was developed with assistance from eBay partner VeriSign, and will cost $5 (£2.57) in the US. PayPal said it will work with any computer and operating system and can be easily deactivated.