Computer users were warned yesterday that hackers have been attempting to hijack internet browsers and steal passwords by using e-mails infected with viruses. While the new technique had not been detected in Hong Kong, it could spread from overseas, warned Senior Inspector Anthony Fung Wai-keung of the Commercial Crime Bureau's technology crime division. Senior Inspector Fung told a technology conference the police had received 82 reports of computer crime in January and February. There were 588 reports last year, more than double the 272 cases in 2002. The technique, a new form of the method known as 'phishing', was first detected in the US last month, said Senior Inspector Fung. After sending out random e-mails containing viruses, hackers can trace the websites visited by victims and access passwords used to log on to those sites. 'The problem is that the [browser] address bar will log all things you type in. So if you've accessed a bank site, it will log your bank account number and password,' he said, adding the data would be sent back to the hacker. He said it would be difficult for users to tell if they had been affected and recommended the installation of anti-virus software. Meanwhile, Senior Inspector Kevin Leung Ka-wai said some fake website operators attempted to secure passwords by asking computer users to click on a hyperlink and key in their bank account passwords. Most of these sites lured victims to join non-existence lucky draws in the name of a reputable financial institution. The victims would then be contacted and told they had won a prize but would first have to pay a tax or a deposit. Most victims have been in Taiwan and on the mainland. Most of the 21 bogus websites found originated in Eastern Europe and South Africa.