Thousands of Irish computer owners have been struck by a vicious online 'garda virus' displaying the official logo of the force, instructing users to pay a fine.
Victims of the virus are completely frozen out of their computers with a total overhaul of the system being the only way of resolving the issue.
A fake pop-up screen with the garda logo says the computer has been locked because it has been used "to examine banned websites, sites containing child pornography, to illicit information exchange or used for storing/viewing pirated content" and demands a fine to be unlocked.
Gardai warn users not to pay the fine in any circumstance, saying "this is not a garda initiative".
A garda spokesperson has said that members of the public would never be contacted in this way and that users should not share their bank details or pay out any money. If a computer user is deceived into paying a fine they should contact their local garda station as soon as possible.
Typically, a victim's computer becomes infected due to visiting a website which contains the virus. Once it has activated, it locks the computer and causes the page to be displayed to the victim.
The scam has been in operation in other countries and the virus detects the country in which the computer is located and downloads the appropriate police logo and locks down the user's screen.
Those who fall victim to the virus have been forced to shell out between €150 and €200 to have their computers fixed.