What is Doxxing – Meaning And Examples
Over the past twenty years, technology has evolved more and better. As a result, the connection between people and digital technology is growing stronger. Because of this, people’s behavior in a virtual network can affect real life – both for good and for the bad.
In the 21st century, communication format, the exchange of information, especially personal and work, has changed significantly. As a result, online communication has made life easier for many people. Still, because of this, the level of cyber threats has increased: Internet users face cyberbullying, become victims of financial fraud, phishing, and cyber attacks on businesses. Every day we hear about the need to protect personal data, and few people think about what it is for without realizing the scale of the threats.
Unfortunately, today it is challenging to avoid data leaks – even if you carefully hide your data and share it with a particular circle of people. This is because cybercriminals have become very greedy – now publicly available information is not too valuable, so they resort to buying personal data, account passwords, credit cards. Naturally, this is done to cause serious harm to the owner. Such actions are also known as doxxing.
Definition of Doxxing
Several years ago, experts defined the word “doxxing” as a deanonymization of a person on the Internet. However, over time, the meaning of this word has broadened.
In part, doxxing is a method of cyberbullying, disclosing another person’s personal information without his consent to cause him trouble, harm, or put him in a dangerous position. Doxxing can be considered distribution:
- personal photos or videos can embarrass the person;
- fragments of personal correspondence, as a rule, are taken out of context;
- residence addresses, telephone numbers, personal email addresses, and other contact details;
- data on work and occupation;
- medical or financial information, criminal records.
Doxxing is also considered when an attacker uses the victim’s already published data against her. For example, on the social network, there is a heated discussion of a controversial issue. If someone publishes another person’s phone number in the comments with calls to call him at night with threats, this is doxxing – even if this number is in a public database or another social network.
Why is Doxxing Dangerous?
Unlike the physical world, information in the virtual space is distributed in the blink of an eye. After the first publication, it is almost impossible to remove it from the network. This only exacerbates the danger of doxxing.
Doxxers often have one goal – to create feelings of discomfort, fear, shame, or helplessness. For example, if you are having a Twitter discussion and someone posts your home address and invites everyone to come and teach you a lesson, you will get nervous. They can also threaten your loved ones. The real danger arises if someone intends to carry out their threats, which happens more often than you think.
It’s not always about publishing data on social media: attackers can transfer information about the victim to her relatives, friends, or employer. This can not only ruin relationships with loved ones but also put an end to your career.
How do doxxers work? Let’s look at several scenarios and talk about the harm they can do to a victim:
- the identification of the user and the transfer of information about him to his employer. As a result, due to social pressure, a person can lose their job;
- publication of intimate photos or videos. This is a common malicious invasion of privacy that can have severe consequences for the victim;
- revealing the identities of anonymous bloggers, internet users, opinion leaders, and artists can be a real threat if the victim is in a hostile environment. This applies, for example, to opposition bloggers in some countries or those who support non-traditional views;
- exposing a person and transferring his data to the media if this information does not serve the public interest and can be used to cause harm;
- collecting data from a specific person, which is contained in confidential or questionable materials, and transferring it to hostile groups that can use this data for informational, physical violence.
There are many examples of doxxing today. They can be divided into three categories:
- by publishing personal information on the network;
- by publishing previously unknown information about a private person on the network;
- publication of information that can harm a person’s reputation.
Let’s take a closer look at each category.
Ashley Madison – Victim of Reputation Deterioration
Ashley Madison is an online dating website that provides services to men looking to go on a date in a relaxed atmosphere. A group of cybercriminals stole Ashley Madison’s data and demanded a ransom from the management. However, the administration did not pay the hackers for the information. The hackers published the company data in the open-access of the network. Thus, the men who met the girls were also threatened. The hackers wanted to humiliate the girls who partnered with the firm, cause embarrassment, shame, and damage their reputation.
Cecil the Lion – The Victim Of The Much More Spread Of Personal Information
A dentist from Minnesota illegally killed a lion that was protected by a nature reserve in Zimbabwe. During the investigation, police disclosed some of the dentist’s personal information. However, it was not the first time that people noticed illegal actions behind the dentist and, therefore, much more disclosed personal data to punish the culprit publicly. Yes, people wanted justice, and the dentist’s act is immoral, but it is also doxxing.
Boston Marathon Explosion – Dissemination of Personal Data
Members of the Reddit community analyzed news, information, events, and people to find those responsible for the Boston Marathon explosion. They managed to find information allegedly confirming the guilt of some people in the explosion of the Boston Marathon and wanted to provide this to law enforcement agencies. However, the facts turned out to be unreliable, and people were subjected to innocence – members of the Reddit community mistakenly disclosed their data.
How To Protect Yourself From Doxxing?
Today there are many tools for finding personal data, and each of you can become a victim of doxxing. For example, if you have a social network, you published posts on an online forum, signed an online petition – then any hacker can steal your data. To protect your privacy, you can do the following.
Use VPN To Encrypt Real IP Address
VPN services are capable of carefully and reliably hiding your actual IP address. The VPN takes information from the user and transmits it over an encrypted tunnel to its destination. The service also encrypts any online activity, and you remain invisible to hackers. If you use public Wi-Fi, you need a VPN because it is a shield against phishing, viruses, and malware.
Use Virus Detection Programs
You will be able to prevent identity theft in advance if you use special programs to scan for viruses or malware. By regularly updating such programs, you can close all the holes where a hacker could get in and protect yourself from hacking.
Use Strong Passwords
A strong password must include numbers, upper and lower case letters, symbols. Never use the same password for several accounts – if a hacker finds at least one password, he will try to apply it to other systems. If you don’t remember passwords well, get a special notebook and save them there. Do not use programs to write passwords, as a hacker will quickly gain access to credit cards, personal and work data.
Create Emails For Different Purposes
Our life is divided into three parts – personal, professional, and public. First, create a confidential email and share it only with family or friends. Next, create an email for spam – this includes sending out public news, online stores, online services, promotions. Finally, make a professional email – you can share it with colleagues, managers, or business partners. When creating an email, never write your date of birth or other personal information.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-factor authentication implies the presence of two identification documents to log into your account. It is often a password and an SMS with a code sent to your phone number. If a hacker tries to break your page, the social network will notify you of this, and this will be a sign that you need to change your password.
What To Do If You Become A Victim Of Doxxing?
Once you are trapped in doxxing, don’t panic – fear is your enemy in this situation. Instead, follow the steps below:
- Report it to the platform where you posted your personal information. Then, contact the platform management and describe the situation – how it happened, where you saw it, and when it happened.
- Contact law enforcement agencies. If a cyber attacker personally threatens you, involve the police – save all threatening messages and provide them as evidence.
- Take screenshots of the website that published your data. Take a picture of the page so you can see the exact URL and date. If the website refutes everything, you will have real facts of their guilt.
- Block financial accounts. If you find out that a hacker has published your credit card numbers on the network, report this to the financial installer. A bank employee must block all accounts and open new ones.
- Block your accounts. If the information leaked due to the loss of access to the account, quickly block all the others, as the hacker will try to get access to all social networks.