Scammers enlist the assistance of a virtual stripper

In a new online striptease, the buxom, beautiful blonde who promises to remove her slinky pieces of lingerie doesn't want your personal info or your card details - she's after your psyche.

Yes, really. Apparently it's all part of a high-tech project by serious fraudsters to develop an automated attack system capable of beating the so-called CAPTCHA systems.

CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test, a new type of IT security that banks are starting to deploy, that is designed to spot an automated logon from a human one.

You've probably seen first-generation CAPTCHA tests in the form of oddly shaped strings of letters and numbers used by the likes of the Yahoo and Hotmail email services, as well as other portals, to prevent automated registrations.

In the new criminal scam, an icon of an skimpily-clad lady appears on a Windows PC infected by a virus.

When the punter clicks on the icon, the user sees a photo of the lady concerned, with the promise of her removing an item of clothing for each time the user `decodes' the jumble of letters and numbers on the computer screen.

But the lady never fully undresses, and after several passwords are entered, the program restarts.

According to Trend Micro, which has encountered the virus, the character strings appear to be generated from Yahoo and Hotmail email creation pages, allowing fraudsters to flood chatrooms and other online services with bogus and automated `users.'

However, the new malware has the banks worried, as they think that the software could be adapted to semi-automate the hacking of online banking systems.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the more criminal elements of the hacking community are using the malware results to write a program capable of beating CAPTCHA systems.

Mind you, given the propensity of most males to look at pictures of the opposite sex stripping off, I think it's going to be difficult to stop the hackers from completing their task...