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Use Caution When Posting to Usenet

  • Munge your address for Usenet posting

    Please be aware that mung­ing is some­what controversial&;mdash;some peo­ple con­sid­er it net abuse. It won’t do a thing if you aren’t using a vir­gin address that you have nev­er used for any Usenet post, mail­ing list, web site, soft­ware reg­is­tra­tion, etc.

    Change the set­tings in your news­read­er so that your email address does not appear in the head­ers of your news­group posts. You can use some­thing like “” or what­ev­er you like. Please be care­ful to be sure that what­ev­er you put after the @ is not a valid domain, as the spam­mers will add this invalid address to their list, and the UCEs they send will go to that domain and put a strain on its mail serv­er even in bounc­ing the mes­sages. You can safe­ly use “” because it will nev­er be a valid domain. If you use a com­mon pat­tern when mung­ing your address, it isn’t too hard for the spam­mers to write a script to de-munge your address. Some news servers will not allow post­ing with­out a valid (or valid-seem­ing) email address in the head­ers, and if you post to any mod­er­at­ed news­groups you will prob­a­bly have to use a valid email address there.

    I recent­ly learned that the spam­bots sel­dom look for the address that’s in the reply-to head­er, so it’s sup­pos­ed­ly fair­ly safe to put your email address there. I’m not entire­ly sure of this, as I know there is address-col­lect­ing soft­ware that’s designed to work specif­i­cal­ly with archives at Google Groups (for­mer­ly DejaNews), and I don’t know if that soft­ware scoops reply-to head­ers or not. I’ve stopped putting my email address in reg­u­lar form in the body of the post, as there are auto­mat­ed meth­ods of grab­bing address­es there, as well. I used the phrase “send email to cyn­thia at mind­spring dot com” in my sig line at one time, which seemed to work quite well back then. (If you do munge your email address, please pro­vide your email address in some form in your .sig line or somewhere—it’s sim­ply polite to let peo­ple know who’s speak­ing.) “Munged” address­es tru­ly annoy some peo­ple who don’t like the extra trou­ble need­ed to reply to a post. If I were seek­ing email in response to my news­group posts, I sup­pose that would both­er me—but I pre­fer to dis­cuss posts in the forum to which they were post­ed, so I don’t mind. If you are look­ing for email respons­es to your posts, it prob­a­bly isn’t the best tac­tic for you.

  • Instead of mung­ing your address, you could use a throw­away address to post to Usenet.
    Don’t do this unless you are sure you don’t ever want to see any email from some­one who saw your postings—in fact, I think it’s only polite to note, pos­si­bly in your .sig line, that the address giv­en func­tions sole­ly as a spam catch­er and that you do not read any­thing sent to it. Most peo­ple set up an account with one of the free web-based email ser­vices to use this way. I use an address on my domain that is con­fig­ured to go straight to the bit bucket. 
  • Use an X‑No-Archive: yes head­er for Usenet and mail­ing list posts
    The X‑No-Archive: head­er tells the scripts for archives like Google Groups to ignore the mes­sage so it won’t be archived. It’s an hon­or sys­tem, though—there are almost cer­tain­ly archives that ignore that head­er. Since some spam­mers do har­vest address­es from Google Groups, it’s a good idea to use this head­er. It won’t be perfect—people who reply to your post and quote it, but who aren’t using the x‑no-archive head­er, will cause some of your post to show up in Google Groups. The head­ers, at least, won’t be there, and your email address prob­a­bly won’t be there if you munged it in your from: header.

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Pho­to by Roman Kraft on Unsplash