bcrypt is a password hashing function designed by Niels Provos and David Mazières, based on the Blowfish cipher, and presented at USENIX in 1999. Besides incorporating a salt to protect against rainbow table attacks, bcrypt is an adaptive function: over time, the iteration count can be increased to make it slower, so it remains resistant to brute-force search attacks even with increasing computation power.
The bcrypt function is the default password hash algorithm for BSD and other systems including some Linux distributions such as SUSE Linux. The prefix "$2a$" or "$2b$" (or "$2y$") in a hash string in a shadow password file indicates that hash string is a bcrypt hash in modular crypt format. The rest of the hash string includes the cost parameter, a 128-bit salt (base-64 encoded as 22 characters), and 184 bits of the resulting hash value (base-64 encoded as 31 characters). The cost parameter specifies a key expansion iteration count as a power of two, which is an input to the crypt algorithm.
For example, the shadow password record $2a$10$N9qo8uLOickgx2ZMRZoMyeIjZAgcfl7p92ldGxad68LJZdL17lhWy specifies a cost parameter of 10, indicating 2 key expansion rounds. The salt is N9qo8uLOickgx2ZMRZoMye and the resulting hash is IjZAgcfl7p92ldGxad68LJZdL17lhWy. Per standard practice, the user's password itself is not stored.