One of the most prominent issues is known as ‘doxxing,’ which has become increasingly common in the past few years. Although the act has become more common, there are still a significant number of people who aren’t aware of what it is.
Doxxing is an unwanted online act that’s been around since the 1990s and has gone through various levels of popularity among cyber-criminals. Though it’s been something that’s negatively affected many people for quite some time, the majority of us don’t know what it is.
The act is something that more people should be aware of, especially when it comes to protecting themselves against it. Much of this is driven by the fact that it has severely impacted many people’s lives in the past two decades. As a result, it’s something that you may want to know more about to help protect yourself against it.
What Is Doxxing?
Doxing is what’s considered a cyber-attack which focuses on finding a person’s private information and publishing it online. This is done without the consent of the person who has their information disclosed.
Additionally, many people may not know they’re going to be a victim of such an attack until it takes place. Doxxing comes from the term ‘drop boxing’ and is typically used to punish or shame people who would much rather keep themselves anonymous online.
In some instances, it’s also used as an attempt to harass people who express controversial opinions online. This could also result in what could be termed online mobbing, whereby the victims of the act are victims of public shaming.
While there have been some instances of victims having been engaged in nefarious activities beforehand, the majority of cases focus on those who are targeted for embarrassment or harassment.
There have been a variety of effects of these efforts, such as people losing their jobs, homes, and even families. In many cases, victims have been forced to move and change their identities as a result of being doxxed. Most doxxing victims have had to delete their social media and other online accounts, with some also being forced to go into hiding as a result of continued harassment.
How Does Doxxing Work?
Many people will wonder how doxxing works and how attackers can retrieve the information that they publish. There are a variety of techniques that they use to do so, with much of this being focused on doing an extensive amount of research on a victim.
One of the simplest ways of doing so for a website owner, for example, is by performing a WhoIs search. Doing so typically pulls up an extensive amount of information about who owns a website, and how to contact them.
Doxxers can also use IP lookups, which can provide a large amount of information about a potential victim, regardless of whether they own a website. An IP is an identifying number that’s unique to a specific geographic location. Armed with this information, a potential doxxer will then be able to begin looking through social media profiles and much more to continue gathering information. In many cases, they may also lookup a variety of other records that may be online.
For example, a doxxer may be able to find a person’s phone number, which they can then use to perform a reverse cell phone lookup. Doing so could yield a significant amount of information about a victim, such as their address, full name, and even email address.
What many people may not realize is that Google can be a powerful tool in this regard, even with just a small bit of information to start with. This is primarily because the search engine indexes all of the information that you put online, which could put it at the mercy of anybody looking for it.
How To Avoid Being Doxxed
Because of the large number of negative consequences associated with doxxing, many of us will naturally want to avoid it, although we may be unsure as to how. While there’s the obvious way of not putting personal information online, this may not be a possibility for some of us. There are a number of ways to avoid being doxxed.
Social Media Confidentiality
The first of these is to ensure that your social media profiles are as confidential as possible, as these can often be one of the larger areas where doxxers get their information. However, this goes beyond simply turning your profile to private, and instead needs a few additional steps.
You should ensure that to only share your profile and posts to friends and family members, and make sure that they don’t contain too much identifying information.
Use A VPN
Using a virtual private network (VPN) is another way to protect your privacy online. A VPN acts as a go-between for your computer and any websites that you may be visiting. VPNs encrypt your internet connection, which can prevent unwanted tracking or spying.
Read More: The Best VPNs for Privacy in 2019
Use Separate Emails For Various Accounts
Another way to protect your identity is to use different email accounts for each online account. While this may seem like an inconvenience, it can help isolate your activity on each account from activity on others. If you use the same email address for your Facebook, Twitter and online banking account, these accounts can easily be linked to each other. Another way to keep these emails more private is to use a VPN when registering these accounts to isolate these accounts from your local IP address.
Delete Past Records
While you’ll be able to use each of the above methods to stay safe from potential hacking and doxxing attempts, these naturally wouldn’t apply to any previous uploads you’ve made. Many of these can contain a significant amount of information, which you may not want people to see. A Google search for your name may reveal some of your past internet posts that you may have forgotten about.
It can be a time-consuming effort to go through every post you’ve ever made on Facebook or on your website, but it can save you a lot of trouble down the road.
There have been numerous examples of doxxing over the past two decades, but instances have increased drastically with the introduction of social media. These are some prominent examples of doxxing that have happened recently.
Jessi Slaughter is a teenage girl who posted several YouTube videos condemning the website 4Chan. As a result of these videos, many of her personal details were posted online.
There were also a number of unfounded claims that she had slept with a famous musician. This led to a significant amount of online harassment, including a massive influx of emails and phone calls, which her father tried to protect her from. The harassment campaign reportedly led to Slaughter’s father suffering from a stress-induced heart attack and Jessi herself being placed into a mental institution.
Violentacrez was the name used for a Reddit account that became notorious for trolling people by posting a variety of offensive images, with many of these being of a sexual nature. According to some reports, many of these were of underage girls.
In one of the few examples of positive doxxing, the person behind the account was outed by Gawker journalist Adrien Chen. As a result of this, the person who owned the account – Michael Brutsch – lost his job and faced a variety of legal consequences, not to mention public shaming.
Are You At Risk Of Being Doxxed?
While each of the above tips should help you prevent your personal information from being exposed online, many of us will still wonder whether we’re at risk of being doxxed. Most internet users are not at risk, but there are a few groups who have the potential to be doxxed. The majority of people who are the victims of such an attack have expressed a controversial opinion. Alongside this, the most common reason for doxxing is revenge or an attempt at control.
Is Doxxing Legal?
So if doxxing can have such negative impacts, is it illegal? In general, the act itself isn’t illegal, as it’s merely republishing information that’s already available online. This doesn’t mean that the practice is ethical, as the majority of us will want our information kept private.
However, what is done with the information, or the intent behind publishing it, that may be illegal. For example, using the information for financial gain, identity theft, or to harass an individual is against the law.
The punishments themselves for each of the above can vary depending on where you live. With the increasing prevalence of doxxing, it’s recommended that you follow each of the above points to protect yourself. You wouldn’t share the majority of this information to strangers on the street, so you shouldn’t do so online either.