People are generally unfamiliar with the concept of doxxing, which can be quite problematic for them in the long run.
The practice of doxxing, or ‘doxxing’, involves finding private and sensitive information with the sole purpose of publishing it online.
Hackers resort to doxxing to threaten, get even, or harass individuals online. If you want to learn more about doxxing and how you can protect yourself from it, read on.
Let’s dive into it.
What is doxxing?
Doxxing takes its roots from the word “documents” During the 90s, hackers referred to documents as “docs.” It was later referred to as “dox”, and the act “dropping dox” meant collecting private and confidential data, like credit card numbers, and publishing them on the internet.
The hacker group Anonymous is responsible for popularizing the term.
How does doxxing Work?
So now that you know what doxxing is, it’s time to have a look at its origins and how it works.
Doxxing started in the form of arguments and escalated to a point where one of the individuals gives away information regarding their adversary.
Today, doxxing is used extensively in culture wars, where hackers specifically target those who oppose their ideologies.
Examples of Doxxing
Celebrities and journalists have been victims of doxxing, causing them to face death threats, safety fears, and bashing from online mobs.
Keeping this in mind, here are a few more examples of how harmful doxxing can really be:
- Ashley Madison
The dating site, Ashley Madison, was founded in 2008 and had a user base of 37.6 million. It was not until journalist Brian Krebs was tipped off about a Canadian firm breach, and he was led to links where he had access to all Ashley Madison members and their private and confidential information.
- Cecil the Lion
Cecil the Lion, who was poached by Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, was the victim of doxxing. The individual in question was not only threatened, bullied, and harassed, but any and all information related to him was plastered on the internet.
- Tyler Barris
This kind is more commonly known as Swatting. The term self-evidently comes from the word, “SWAT”, as in, “Special Weapons And Tactics”.
It’s basically prank calling the SWAT team and falsely accusing someone of something horrible and to get the team to raid that person’s home/workplace.
One of the most infamous cases dates back to 2017 due to an online dispute between Call of Duty WWII players, Shane Gaskill and Casey Viner. A fraudulent call was made to the Wichita Police by Tyler Barris regarding swatting an address. Because of this, an uninvolved individual, Andrew Finch, was fatally shot by officer Justin Rapp.
There are many types of doxxing, but they all involve tracking down private information. While people assume the internet is completely safe, secure, and anonymous, they are mistaken. The internet offers numerous ways to track people online.
Doxxers rely on different methods to obtain information about their unsuspecting victims. They will start by finding bits and pieces of information regarding their victim on the internet. An experienced doxxer can craft a helpful puzzle that could help identify people behind aliases.
Doxxers can find details like the victim’s name, physical address, phone number, email address, and so on.
If not for this, doxxers could buy and/or sell private and confidential information on the dark web.
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Types of doxxing
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of doxxing techniques used by cybercriminals:
- ISP/IP Doxxing
Doxxers can identify your IP address via social engineering on your ISP to find more information about you.
- Social Media Doxxing
If your social media account is public, it will not be difficult for cybercriminals to access your personal information. Based on your likes and comments, a doxxer can tell a great deal about you. For this reason, and many others, it is a good idea to set your social media accounts to private.
- Data Brokers
Data brokers collect information about online users and sell it to make a profit. Data brokers collect information from records publicly available. While most data brokers sell to advertisers, the information they collect can also be bought by doxxers.
Is doxxing Legal?
Even though doxxing may seem unethical, it cannot be considered illegal right out of the bat.
On a case-by-case basis, the legality of doxxing is usually determined since there is no law prohibiting individuals from posting publicly available information. In fact, there are no specific laws against doxxing.
Doxxers can be charged for cybercrimes, but that is the full extent of it. To be more precise, doxxers can be charged with identity theft, harassment, and stalking.
The Interstate Stalking Statute and Interstate Communications Statute can be applied to doxxing in the US-based on the details of the case in question.
An individual can go to jail for doxxing. For instance, the teenager who lost a bet in Call of Duty falsely reported a hostage situation, as mentioned above. The teenager was caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
How to Prevent Doxxing
Determining if you have been doxxed
You will find out when you have been doxxed.
Doxxers will immediately publish your information online, and you will get messages threatening you. At this time, it would be a good idea to disable all of your accounts.
Apart from locking down your accounts, it would be a good idea to check if any of your information is on sale on the dark web.
Scouring the dark web for your information will not be easy, which is why you should find a reliable tool online that will alert you as soon as your private information has been exposed.
Ways to Prevent Doxxing
If you are a victim of doxxing, then you will need to act fast. Here are a couple of steps you can take immediately:
- Document as much evidence as possible.
- Report to the platform your information popped up on.
- Notify the appropriate authorities.
- Disable your accounts temporarily.
- Change your numbers, if possible.
To prevent doxxing entirely, here is what you need to do:
- Use a VPN
Use a reliable VPN to make sure you are safe, secure, and anonymous online. Most importantly, whatever VPN you choose should have a zero logs policy.
- Avoid OAuth login
When signing up with a new account, avoid using the “log in with Google/Facebook” option. It is always a good idea to create unique passwords for each and every account that you own. It may be tempting to sign in immediately, but it will do more harm than good in the long run. Using a reputable password manager can help you keep track.
- Set social media accounts to private
For every social media account you own, set them to private. There is no need for you to leave your social media accounts for everyone to see. By leaving your social media accounts set to public, you will only make it easier for doxxers to compromise your online presence.
- Request personal data removal
Contact data brokers that may have information on you and request a removal. Data brokers are legally obligated to accept your request.
Wrap Up: Be Mindful Of What You Share Online
You now have everything you need to know about doxxing and how to prevent it. Remember, the internet is not as safe and secure as people make it to be, so you will need to protect yourself at all costs.
Create unique passwords for all your accounts, use a reliable VPN, set your social media accounts to private, and do not give out more information than you need to.
These are just a couple of steps you can take to prevent doxxing and hacking attempts.
Make it a point to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest news and happenings in the tech world, and in this way, you will find yourself better equipped to deal with cybercrime and privacy-related issues.
This post was written by Salman Shahid