Doxxing Definition – The New Threat to Your Personal Information
DoxxinDoxxing definition is the act of publishing private information and identifying information about an individual online with intent to harm. The private information may include the person’s real name, address, credit and bank reports, and more. Doxxing is done in order to shame someone, encourage other online users to intimidate someone, or put the person being doxxed in actual danger.
The word “doxxing” is derived from the term “dropping docs,” a revenge tactic originated in the 1990s by hackers who used to “dox” a rival, or in other words tried to hurt him deliberately in retaliation. These early hackers would try to reveal their rivals’ identity in order to turn them in to the police for illegal practices.
Nowadays, the general idea remained the same – documenting one’s personal information and leaking it to others, but the attackers and victims’ identity have changed. The modern doxxer is not only a hacker but could also be anyone around you - your classmate, neighbor, political rival and many other examples. You don’t have to be famous or popular as anybody can fall victim to this type of online harassment. There is plenty of personal information that exists online and cyberbullies can reach it and use it against you if you get on their radar.
Doxxing can be described as a weapon used to attack others. Certain groups and movements use doxxing to “punish” their rivals or people who disagree with their point of views. When done by individuals, doxxing is often used for harassment or humiliation purposes. It usually consists of digging up private information that exists online, hacking your social media accounts, tracking your address, phone number, and more.
While Doxxing is usually done on smaller scales, there were cases of large-scale doxxing attacks that included public humiliation and shaming, which resulted in tragic consequences, such as lost of jobs, families or even homes. Others were forced to raise high ransom money to remove unwanted or embarrassing information about them.
- Kyle Quinn, a biomedical engineer from Arkansas, was mistakenly identified as taking part in a neo-Nazi rally, just because he looked a bit like one of the rally’s participants. Once doxxers got involved and falsely decided Quinn is a neo-Nazi, his life became hell. He and his family were bombarded by hate messages on Twitter and Instagram, and his employers were contacted by doxxers demanding Quinn’s firing. Fortunately for Kyle, some of his colleagues hung out with him at the night of the rally and could approve his innocence.
- Naked photos of a Reddit female user were posted on 4chan, an infamous imageboard website. More than 20,000 people watched her photos and her Facebook inbox was filled with repulsive messages from men she never knew. Some of them physically went to see her at the address posted by the 4chan doxxer.
- In 2013, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, a few people were wrongly identified by the Reddit community as suspects and their personal information was leaked. Consequently, the individuals suffered from online and offline harassments that made their lives miserable.
In the past, if you wanted to prank or revenge on someone, you would call up multiple pizza delivery places and present yourself as the victim. Soon, the poor victim’s front door would be full of angry delivery guys.
Today, when all your personal information can be found online, pranksters and attackers use doxxing to revenge on people across the world, and it has escalated into life-threatening situations, known as SWATTING. In SWATTING, the attacker presents himself as the victim and posts threats to bomb a place or shoot up a school in fake social accounts. Alternatively, the attacker makes anonymous phone calls to the police, claiming that the victim has a bomb and planning to commit a terrorist attack. A police force or SWAT team then arrives to the miserable victim’s house, fully armed and alert.
There were some cases in which celebrities such as Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus and Ashton Kutcher were targets of SWATTING. However, the most heartbreaking SWATTING incident occurred in 2017, when two Call of Duty players got into an argument with deadly consequences. One of these players asked his friend to SWAT his rival player, then the friend called 911 emergency, posing as the victim, and claimed he had shot his father and holds hostages at his home. Police quickly responded to the situation and the victim was shot and died on spot when he opened the door. This incident is believed to be the first confirmed death related to SWATTING.
Stay safe on social media:
- Don’t approve any person on Facebook and Instagram. Only allow people that you know well to be your friends on Facebook or follow you on Instagram. Additionally, check your Privacy Settings and make sure only friends can see things you post.
- Remove addresses and places of work, and never write where your children go to school.
Register and login wisely:
- Don’t register to apps and websites with the “login with Facebook” or “login with Google” buttons. By logging with these buttons, you automatically give the website information attached to these accounts, such as place of residence, job, family members, phone number, etc.
- Don’t use your personal email to register on forums and other similar websites, but rather create a secondary or “junk” email that doesn’t include your name on it.
Keep Your Internet Communications Protected:
- Install a VPN to stay anonymous online and hide your IP address.
- Be cautious about using public Wi-Fi hotspots as these can be intercepted by fake hotspots made by hackers. In this case, a VPN would protect you as well.
Protect Your Computer’s Data:
- Install an Antivirus to protect your personal information from doxware, a certain malware or spyware that can steal your personal data. We’ve created top 5 lists of the best antivirus software for PC and Mac. Check them out and discover the right antivirus for you.
- Keep your operation system and software updated as often there are urgent security updates and fixes.
Vary usernames and use strong passwords:
- Many people use the same password for every site they register to. The danger of this habit is that if you hit a fake site created by a hacker, that hacker will get the one password you use everywhere.
- Create strong and long passwords that don’t include any personal information, such as name, birthdate and social security number.
- If you tend to subscribe to adult content sites, create yourself a different persona with a unique username you’ve never used on “regular” sites.
Stay extra cautious on controversial forums:
- Try to avoid voicing your opinion on public forums, especially if you’re posting a controversial view that could threaten you and your family. If you must express your opinion there, take extra steps to hide your real identity.
- Never share your location or full name on such forums and try to use pseudonyms.
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