What is Doxxing?
Imagine this: you wake up one morning, check your phone, and find your inbox flooded with messages from friends, family, and even strangers. They tell you that your personal information has been posted online for the world to see. Your home address, phone number, and even your social security number are now out in the open. This nightmare scenario is called doxxing, and it’s a growing problem in the digital age. In this blog post, we’ll explore doxxing, its definition, its legality, and how to prevent and respond to such attacks.
Doxxing is online harassment that involves the release of someone’s private information online, without their permission. This could include details like their name, address, phone number, social media accounts, and other sensitive data.
It is not only morally wrong but also illegal. It violates other people’s privacy rights and the terms of service of many websites, which can result in a ban from the platform. Therefore, doxing is an unethical practice and is generally not tolerated.
Strengthening your online privacy, following cybersecurity best practices, and monitoring your digital footprint are essential steps in safeguarding your personal information against doxxing attacks.
Doxxing is the act of revealing someone else’s personal information online without their permission. This can include real names, home addresses, workplaces, phone numbers, financial details, and other sensitive data.
The origins of doxxing can be traced back to hacker culture, but it has evolved over time and expanded beyond the confines of the hacker community. Today, doxxing can be found in various online spaces, often with malicious intent, and its impact on victims can be severe, ranging from online harassment to identity theft.
The origins of doxxing
Doxxing has its roots in the hacker culture of the ’90s, where it was known as “dropping dox”. Originally, the practice was used by hackers to expose someone who’s been using a false identity.
Doxxing has been around for some time. In 1997, anti-abortion activists targeted abortion providers in one of the earliest known cases. Since then, doxxing has grown and evolved, fueled by the rise of social media and the vast amount of personal information available online.
The evolution of doxxing
Over time, the definition of doxxing has expanded beyond the hacker world. It now encompasses the exposure of personal information, rather than just unmasking anonymous users. This shift is largely due to the ease of obtaining personal information online and the prevalence of social media.
Doxxing has also been increasingly used in culture wars, with people on either side of debates doxing those with different opinions. This evolution highlights the need to be aware of doxxing and its potential consequences for everyone involved.
The impact on victims
Victims of doxxing can suffer significant damage to their reputation, mental health, and personal safety. The Boston Marathon bombing incident in 2013 is a prime example of the unintended consequences of doxxing, where innocent people were wrongly identified as suspects, leading to a misguided witch hunt.
Keffals, a Canadian Trans activist and content creator, was subjected to a long and high-profile doxxing and swatting campaign. This case has been widely reported in the media. She was wrongfully accused of planning to kill her mother and people from the London, Ontario city council, eventually leading to her arrest and ongoing harassment.
Methods of Doxxing
Doxxers employ a variety of tactics to collect information about their targets, such as locating their IP address, examining their social media accounts, purchasing data from data brokers, executing phishing campaigns, and monitoring internet traffic. These methods can uncover a wealth of personal information, making it easier for doxxers to cause harm.
Understanding the techniques used by doxxers is essential in taking appropriate steps to protect your personal information and reduce the risk of becoming a doxxing victim.
Social media mining
One of the most common methods of doingxxing is social media mining. Doxxers scour public social media profiles to collect personal information about their targets, such as location, workplace, friends, photos, likes and dislikes, places visited, names of family members, and even pets’ names.
The information gathered through social media mining can be used by doxxers to piece together a detailed picture of their target’s life, enabling them to cause harm or even gain access to other accounts through security questions.
Public records search
Another method of doxxing involves accessing government records, such as those stored by the DMV or county records, to reveal sensitive information that could be used in a doxxing attack. Doxxers can also conduct a WHOIS search, a service that provides information about the person who owns a domain on the internet, to uncover personal information such as names, phone numbers, addresses, and emails.
By exploiting public records and databases, doxxers can obtain private information to target their victims.
Cybersecurity breaches are another avenue for hackers to obtain private data. Hacking into email accounts or other online services can lead to the exposure of personal information. Phishing campaigns, where a hacker attempts to trick someone into providing sensitive information, can also be used by doxxers to gain access to their target’s emails, which can then be used for doxxing.
Ensuring that your online accounts are secure and protected from cybersecurity breaches is crucial in defending against doxxing attempts.
Legal Aspects of Doxxing
While doxxing itself isn’t explicitly illegal, its legality depends on the situation and whether it is linked to other criminal offenses, such as harassment, stalking, intimidation, identity theft, or incitement to violence. Understanding the legal implications of doxxing is essential for both potential victims and those considering engaging in doxxing activities, as the consequences can range from fines to jail time and even civil liability.
It is important to be aware of the potential legal ramifications of doxxing, as it can have serious consequences. It is also important to remember that doxxing is not always illegal, and that the legality of doxxing depends on the context and the specific circumstances.
When is doxxing illegal?
Doxxing can be illegal if it is connected to harassment, stalking, intimidation, or cyberbullying, or if the data was obtained illegally. For example, if false information is shared as part of a doxxing attack, it could result in a libel suit being brought forward by the victim.
Knowing when doxxing is considered illegal and the potential consequences is crucial in making informed decisions about what actions to take if you are a victim or are considering engaging in doxxing.
Penalties for doxxing
The legal penalties for doxxing can vary depending on the location and the specific circumstances of the case, but they can range from fines to jail time and even civil liability. In some jurisdictions, specific anti-doxxing laws have been enacted, such as in Kentucky and Hong Kong.
Regardless of the legal landscape, it is essential to understand the potential repercussions of engaging in doxxing activities and to take appropriate steps to protect yourself and others from this harmful practice.
Real-Life Doxxing Cases
Doxxing has occurred in a wide range of situations, affecting individuals from various walks of life. Some of the most well-known examples include the Ashley Madison hack, the Gamergate controversy, and the doxxing of abortion providers.
Examining real-life doxxing cases can help us better understand the diverse contexts in which doxxing has taken place and the serious repercussions it can have for victims.
Celebrities are often targets of doxxing attacks, with high-profile cases involving stars such as Kim Kardashian, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Donald Trump, Lady Gaga, Scarlett Johansson, Michelle Obama, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton. The repercussions of celebrity doxxing can range from public humiliation to physical harm and legal action against the doxxer.
These cases serve as a reminder that nobody is immune to the dangers of doxxing, regardless of their fame or status.
Doxxing has also been used as a tool in political disputes and activism. Incidents such as the doxxing of white supremacists during the 2017 Charlottesville march, where counter-protestors exposed the identities of those participating, demonstrate how doxxing can play a role in political conflicts.
In some cases, the consequences for those involved can be severe, including job loss and public shaming.
Sometimes, doxxing can lead to unintended consequences, with innocent people mistakenly targeted and facing negative repercussions. The Boston Marathon bombing incident in 2013 serves as a prime example, where Reddit users misidentified suspects, leading to a misguided witch hunt and harm to innocent individuals.
This highlights the need for caution and critical thinking when encountering information online, as doxxing can have serious consequences not only for the intended target but also for others who may be caught in the crossfire.
Protecting Yourself from Doxxing
Taking steps to safeguard your personal information and reduce the risk of becoming a doxxing victim is essential in today’s digital age. By strengthening your online privacy, following cybersecurity best practices, and monitoring your digital footprint, you can minimize the likelihood of being targeted by doxxers and protect yourself from the potential harm that doxxing can cause.
Strengthening online privacy
To enhance your online privacy, it is crucial to manage your social media profiles and other online services carefully. Ensure that your accounts are locked down and your privacy settings are up-to-date to keep your profiles more secure.
Limit the amount of personal information you share online, and be cautious about what you post on social media, as this information can be used by doxxers to target you.
Cybersecurity best practices
Using strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and up-to-date security software is vital in protecting against doxxing attempts. Choose passwords that combine upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and avoid using common words or phrases. Make sure to use a different password for each account, and consider using a password manager to store and encrypt your passwords securely.
Be wary of phishing scams and other malicious activities, and always think twice before giving apps permission to access your data or device features.
Monitoring your digital footprint
Regularly check and manage the information available about you online to minimize the risk of becoming a doxxing victim. Use search engines to monitor your name, and set up Google Alerts to be notified when new information about you appears online.
Delete or secure outdated profiles to reduce the amount of personal data accessible online, and consider using a VPN to protect your internet data from potential thieves.
Responding to Doxxing Attacks
If you become a victim of doxxing, it is important to act quickly to mitigate damage and protect yourself. Reporting the attack, securing your accounts, and seeking support from friends, family, and professional networks can help you cope with the trauma and prevent further harm.
Reporting the attack
To report a doxxing incident, document the attack by taking screenshots or downloading pages where your information has been posted, ensuring to include the date and URL. Report the doxxing to the platforms hosting your information. If needed, contact law enforcement for further help.
Depending on the severity of the attack and the nature of the threats, it may be important to involve law enforcement to ensure your safety and hold the perpetrator accountable.
Securing your accounts
After a doxxing attack, take measures to lock down and protect your online accounts. Change passwords and enable two-factor authentication on all your accounts, and consider using a VPN to protect your internet data.
If your financial accounts or social security number have been exposed, keep an eye out for suspicious activity and consider a credit freeze or fraud alert to prevent identity theft.
Reaching out to friends, family, and professional support networks is crucial in the aftermath of a doxxing incident. They can provide emotional support to help you cope with the trauma and offer practical advice on how to respond to the attack and protect yourself from further harm.
If necessary, consider seeking professional help, such as a content removal attorney or lawyer, to assist you in taking down the online information and dealing with any legal or criminal matters that may arise from the doxxing attack.
Doxxing is a growing problem in the digital age, with serious consequences for victims ranging from online harassment to identity theft. By understanding the origins, methods, and legal aspects of doxxing, as well as real-life cases, we can better protect ourselves and others from this harmful practice. Strengthening online privacy, following cybersecurity best practices, and monitoring our digital footprint are essential steps in safeguarding our personal information. In the event of a doxxing attack, acting quickly to report the incident, secure accounts, and seek support is crucial in mitigating damage and preventing further harm. Stay vigilant, stay informed, and stay safe.
How to stay safe online:
- Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
- Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
- Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
- Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions.
What is an example of doxxing?
Doxxing is an example of online harassment that involves the release of someone’s private, personally identifying information online. This could include details about the individual such as their name, address, phone number, social media accounts and other sensitive data.
Such information can be damaging to the target, as well as their personal and professional contacts.
Why is doxing illegal?
Doxing is illegal because it violates other people’s privacy rights, often with malicious intent. It also violates many websites’ terms of service, which can result in a ban from the platform. Therefore, doxing is an unethical practice and is generally not tolerated.
Why is it called doxxing?
The term ‘Doxing’ is a neologism which comes from the word ‘documents.” It refers to the malicious act of uncovering and releasing confidential documents or information about someone, usually with the intent of causing them harm or discomfort.
Doxing is a growing problem in the digital age, as more and more personal information is stored online. It can be used to target individuals, businesses, and even governments. It is.
Is doxxing legal in the US?
Overall, doxxing is not illegal in the US, but the circumstances of how it is done can make it a criminal offense. Depending on the information shared and how it was obtained, it could constitute a breach of privacy laws or cyberstalking and harassment laws.
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.
Advanced Persistent Threat (APT)
Black Hat Hacker
Brute Force Attack
Business Email Compromise (BEC)
Computer Virus Examples
Computer Worm Examples
Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Examples
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Types
Cyber Threat Examples
Cyber Threat Types
Data Breach Examples
Data Breach Types
DDoS Attack Examples
Grey Hat Hacker
Identity Theft Examples
Identity Theft Types
Malicious Code Examples
Man In The Middle Attack
Man in the Middle Attack Examples
Phishing Email Examples
Social Engineering Examples
Social Engineering Types
Spear Phishing Examples
SQL Injection Examples
SQL Injection Types
Trojan Horse Examples
Watering Hole Attack
Zero Day Exploit
Zero Day Exploit Examples