A hoax e-mail warning people that their PCs may contain a virus called sulfnbk.exe tricks its victims into trashing a harmless, and potentially helpful, Windows utility.

The e-mail, which was originally written in Portuguese and was reported to be making the rounds in Brazil last month, has been translated to English and is circulating in the United Kingdom. Recipients are advised to delete a harmless Microsoft Windows utility called sulfnbk.exe from their hard disks.

Antivirus experts were quick to point out that the e-mail does not contain a worm and is being passed around by well-meaning people alarmed at its contents. As a result, it cannot be detected by virus-scanning software or junk e-mail filters.

"This is social engineering on a grand scale," said Symantec spokeswoman Lucy Bunker. "Whereas e-mail worms mass-mail themselves and cause destruction, this hoax message simply asks you to mass-mail it yourself and then delete the information on your computer. In essence, you're doing the work of a destructive virus yourself."

-- from CNet News.Com, May 30, 2001