You've probably heard the term "doxxing" thrown around in the media, but what you may not know is that this word can apply to multiple situations, even some that aren't on the internet.
So, what is doxing, how do we avoid it, and is there anything that we can do?
Read on to find out more!
Doxxing is a process of maliciously exposing someone's personal information online without their consent.
Usually, this task gets performed using the internet as it allows for the person posting the information to more easily remain anonymous if they choose. Using the internet also results in the data becoming more widely available, so its potential for damage is higher.
There are a lot of reasons that people dox other people and organizations, including:
It doesn't really matter why someone gets doxxed, but what does matter is how the data was retrieved by the inflicting individual.
Lots of personal information is available to the general public online through sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. It's also possible to do a simple Google search and find other data such as previous names, addresses, phone numbers, and information about relatives or people who share the same name.
Some information used for doxing is more difficult to retrieve and includes data such as:
Deciding what is and what isn't doxxing isn't tricky as there's usually malicious intent involved, which frequently includes harassment. It's possible for anyone to be a victim of doxxing, but celebrities, journalists, politicians, and public figures are frequent targets.
So now the question is: how to prevent doxing?
The best method is not to provide personal details that you wouldn’t want spreading around online.
But thats not always possible. Right? What about eCommerce sites like Amazon?
This guideline is especially true when you're using social media sites where your data is often public until you adjust security settings.
To protect yourself from this type of attack, here are some practical tips that can help you avoid being a victim of doxxing.
Whenever possible, avoid sharing your personal information on public sites or in public meetings. This includes your full name, address, phone number, email address, Social Security or other government-issued numbers, and financial account numbers.
If you must disclose this information online to create an account for example, consider using a pseudonym or alias.
Protecting your online accounts with strong passwords is one of the most important steps to prevent doxxing. Be sure to choose passwords that are at least 12 characters long, and include a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Also, make sure your passwords aren’t easily guessed or related to personal information such as birthdays or family names.
Change your passwords regularly and never reuse the same password on multiple sites.
Two-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) provides an extra layer of security that requires users to provide an additional form of verification when logging into a site.
This can be in the form of a code sent to your email or phone, or using biometric technology such as fingerprints or facial recognition.
Whenever possible, enable two-factor authentication on all of your accounts to add an extra layer of protection against doxxing attacks.
It is important to think carefully before you post anything online. Some information we share can be used to identify us or other people.
Be mindful of the postings and comments you make on websites, even if it seems harmless.
Think about what kind of information you are sharing and how it could be used against you.
It is important to be aware of the current privacy policies of websites you frequent and the settings available. Many sites have options for private accounts or more restrictive settings that let you choose who can see your posts.
Make sure to check those settings regularly, especially if the site updates its privacy policies.
Pay attention to the kinds of information people are asking you for when making comments and take extra caution with posting any sensitive personal or financial information online.
These are the crucial questions: Is doxing legal? Can a doxxing lawsuit ever be filed against you?
This is not a simple issue, as you probably know.
Doxxing laws may apply to both the victim and the perpetrator.
First, the United States does not have a direct doxxing law that addresses these types of attacks.
However, some attempts have been made to create such a law. California does have a cybercrime law, which applies to doxxing.
However, other stalking laws may also be applicable.
First, doxxing legal action should be separated into criminal and civil law.
Unfortunately, answering the question "Is doxing legal?" is a bit tricky as it can vary from one case to another. The answer can also change based on what information got distributed, where that information came from, and who got doxed.
Often, doxxing is part of a more extensive campaign to harass an individual or entity, and there are certain people, such as jurors or witnesses, that fall into different categories. It is often challenging to discover the identity of the person doxxing, which is an obstacle that can be difficult to overcome.
If the information was obtained legally, either through social media or on a public forum such as a Google search, it's unlikely the doxing is illegal since anyone can access this information. While many people would find this disturbing, doxxing can often take little snippets of information that seem harmless on their own and compile them to create a bigger picture.
People often don't realize how much personal information they've put out on the internet, and doxing can exploit certain known security flaws of various sites to dig for more data. While not all of this behavior is legal, it often gets performed anonymously.
If the doxing takes place on social media, you can report doxxing to the platform, which usually violates the terms of using that service. The result is that posts or tweets get swiftly removed, but that doesn't stop the offender from creating new fake accounts and continuing to post information about you.
In most cases, you'll simply have to decide how much bandwidth you have to dedicate to this doxing, and often the best course of action is to lock or suspend your accounts. Otherwise, you can consult with a lawyer to see if further action is warranted and document the doxing activity to the best of your ability.
You can also ask Google to remove information that they have saved about you every so often, and if you own any domains, you can switch the whois records to private. Even if you take all available steps, there will still be a bit of information about you on the internet, but you can search for your name to assess how much is out there.
Doxxing can be very distressing. To prevent doxxing, you need to limit the amount of information about yourself online. You can take steps to manage your digital footprint and remove personal information that you don’t want to be shared.
The practice of searching for your data, or doxxing yourself, is the best way to understand how much information is available and potentially where it originates. Regardless of how much of a public figure you are, doxing is not all that uncommon, and it doesn't hurt to prepare.
Many people have heard the term but still want to know: what is doxing and how to prevent it? The short answer is that you can't stop it entirely, but by practicing safe browsing online and keeping personal information off the internet, you can reduce the risk of doxxing.
Unfortunately, in most cases, it's impossible to identify the culprit of doxing, which makes it difficult to take further steps. The first step to prevent doxxing is to remove your personal information from the internet.