Security experts have warned surfers not to fall for a new hoax spreading across the internet, posing as a warning of a non-existent virus.
The Olympic Torch hoax warns email users to be wary of emails with the subject line "Invitation", and claims that it has been classified as "the most destructive virus ever".
The hoax claims that the "virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc". IT security firm Sophos reported yesterday that it is receiving an increasing number of reports of the hoax from users who are concerned it may be genuine.
"The warning is clearly nonsense and no such virus exists," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.
"However, hoaxes and chain letters like this are not harmless - they waste time and bandwidth, and can be a genuine headache for support departments. Users need to ask themselves whether they can believe everything they are told."
Part of the hoax message reads as follows:
'Do not open any message with an attached filed called "Invitation" regardless of who sent it. It is a virus that opens an Olympic Torch which "burns" the whole hard disc C of your computer. This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address in his/her contact list, that is why you should send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it'
"Virus hoaxes aren't just a nuisance, they're a menace, and by forwarding these hoaxes on to your friends and family you could be panicking them into taking the worst possible action," added Cluley.
"Suspicious people who decide its better to be safe - and send on the email - rather than sorry, should always check to see if it is believable, and not a known hoax, before even considering sending it onto other computer users."
He warned that that IT security scare hoaxes can cause serious problems, as innocent users often over-react to the alerts. In the case of previous hoaxes some users have been recorded who panic when their anti-virus software "fails" to find the infection resort to deleting critical files or formatting their hard drives.