What is Munging?

Tricia Christensen

Munging is a term used on the Internet, which helps to eliminate some uses of your email on sites where your email address may be collected and used to send you spam, often by programs called spam bots. The practice means you alter your email address so it is either invalid or not viewed as email address by these bots. You can pronounce the word in two ways, as rhymed with the word lunging or with a hard g, such as in the word “among.” The word mung is an acronym that stands for “mash until no good.” But tech speak or nerdic also uses the term munge as a verb, which means to alter something so it can’t be recognized.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Typical munging might occur on a chat or listserve, but shouldn’t occur when you expect an automated company like an Internet store to reply to you about a query or a purchase. If you want to give someone your email address in a munging way, you’d write something like: “You can reach me at Rob at server dot net.” Most people could read this to understand rob@server.net was the actual email address given. Others put hyphens between each letter, or follow the .net, .org, or .com with a .no-spam. A spambot scanning for email addresses usually will take the whole address and when attempting to send spam email to the address, will not be able to do so since it doesn’t exist.

There are some rules about munging of which you should be aware. You should never munge an address so that you actually list someone else’s real address. That is fraudulent and very bad form. Also, you may want to look at other ways to protect your email account from spam, like using spam blockers and the like. If many people employ munging tactics, it’s a pretty sure bet that hackers will find a way to create programs that interpret typical munged addresses.

There are some that argue strongly against this practice. Usually these arguments come from corporations that do use spambots to obtain email addresses. Similarly, if you sign up for an Internet group of any type, they may ban the practice, especially in your signup form. You should read all FAQs and terms and agreements to make sure that munging is not disallowed on a site you wish to join.

In other instances, though, munging can be just one way to defeat spam, and to discourage use of your email address being distributed among numerous advertisers. Teaching kids to munge and to recognize it can be a very good idea, especially on kid’s sites. Though these are technically monitored, giving out an email in a chat means it could be picked up and used by predators. Munging may make that a little more difficult. Technically, though, your child should not be giving out email addresses to strangers in any case.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent EasyTechJunkie contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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