Address book protection or hoax?

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. A friend told me that if I add the entry to my email address book, it will protect me from worms and other things that arrive via email. Is that true and if so, how does that work?

A. Your friend’s good intentions notwithstanding, that aaaaa “miracle cure” is simply a variation of the original 00000 hoax that first surfaced a decade ago. Once these things start circulating, they never completely disappear, unfortunately, and periodically resurface as this one has. The theory at the time was that by including that address as the first entry, if an address book was hijacked and email sent to everyone in the book, because the first entry was bogus and would not send, it would derail the hijacking and thus protect the rest of the address book. Good in theory, not so good in reality.

This protocol should definitely NOT be relied upon to thwart viruses or other digital creepy-crawlies that might infest an address book. Most of today's email worms harvest email addresses from .TXT, .DOC, and HTM files throughout a computer, as well as their perennial favorite targets, Outlook and Outlook Express. In fact, any self-respecting worm today contains its own SMTP (mail sending) engine, so it works independently and doesn’t rely on an installed email program.

Let’s think about this logically: Even if the “aaaaa” address worked at all, it would only work AFTER a computer was infected and the virtual vermin wormed its way into an address book. The idea, of course, is to thwart worms and viruses BEFORE they take up residence on your PC.

My best advice is to forget about any quick-fix, bogus address book entries and just make sure you use, and keep updated, reputable anti-virus and anti-malware programs. I maintain a list of my favorite programs at, which you are welcome to review at any time.

Q. I know there is a great deal of medical information available on the Web, including lots of questionnaires and tests. Do you know if there is anything online that can test for color blindness? Thanks, Mr. M.

A. Before dispensing any information of this type, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend seeking appropriate medical evaluation and consultation for definitive answers to health-related questions. I am not a doctor, though I did portray one once in community theatre. With that caveat, there is a color blindness test located at the appropriately named Color Vision Testing Web site. The site features standard color vision tests in which colored objects and numbers are “hidden” within several circular fields of dots. There is also a pediatric color-vision test for 3- to 6-year-olds, and a view of the world through a color-blind person’s eyes. The default font on this Web site is large and easy to read. How refreshing.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week

Congressional Votes
Hosted by, here you can browse an extensive database of every vote cast in the U.S. Congress since 1991. You can search by aggregate votes on a given issue or by individual members of Congress, assuming he or she is actually working. The site is updated several times each day.

Kitten War
Cat lovers are sure to enjoy the awwwww-some battles that occur daily on this site. The site posts photos of two kittens side by side and asks visitors to determine which one is truly the fairest of them all. Try not to be catty with your comments, though. “Good luck, combatants, and may the cutest kitten win!”

Mr. Modem publishes the "Ask Mr. Modem!” newsletter each week, featuring PC tips, tricks, and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit