Ask the Expert

Can I stump viruses by creating a fake e-mail address?

I recently read an e-mail that essentially said: "set up a contact in Outlook with an e-mail like This will prevent e-mail viruses from spreading to other contacts because this fake e-mail is the first in the alphabetical contact list, and since it is invalid, it will fail to post and the virus will not look further." Does this have any value?
I cannot predict the action of all virus or e-mail programs, but in general, having a fake e-mail is not good virus protection. First, in many e-mail program, entering an address like (any word then the @ sign then several dots then com) won't work because the address book feature will not allow you to store such an address. The client is smart enough to recognize it as such and won't let you store it. I don't have any e-mail clients that will let me enter such a malformed address. If you meant to enter something like (supposedly a fake address as such a domain does not exist, at least to my knowledge) is equally useless. The e-mail client will happily attempt to mail any address and usually it's simply rejected and eventually comes back to you as non-deliverable, but does not prevent other mailings.

You can try an experiment. Compose an e-mail and enter several good e-mail addresses and several non-existent ones. They all get "mailed." Add your address from above. This may hang until you respond; it's a malformed address and needs action from you. Your e-mail client detected that it was malformed. If an e-mail client is smart enough to reject a malformed e-mail address, like, a virus writer can write code that will as well. The only difference is her code will delete the address and continue using the good ones.

This was first published in April 2003

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