Doxxing, short for dropping docs, is when an individual publicly discloses documents about their rival. The disclosed documents could reveal the identity and private information of an individual or an organization which could harm them.
In the internet world, doxxing is a cyberattack that involves searching and posting personal and identifiable information about an individual or an organization. Typically, a hacker conducts thorough research and analyzes an individual’s information online before revealing their identity.
Usually, a hacker would monitor your social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other online forums to gain better insight into your life, habits, and digital activities. With that information in hand, the hacker would target the individual with malicious attacks.
Why Would Someone Dox?
There are several reasons why someone would dox an individual or an organization. In most cases, doxxing occurs when someone wants to harass other people, such as politicians, celebrities, journalists, social media influencers, and other people.
By doxxing, the hacker could reveal the victim’s identity, phone number, email address, and personal data on the internet. The purpose of doxxing is primarily to gain attention, revenge, or competitive advantage over others.
In some cases, doxxing isn’t unethical. For example, if someone illegally stole content and posted it online anonymously, the authorized agency would dox the individual to reveal their identity.
Is Doxxing Illegal?
With no anti-doxxing laws in the US, doxxing isn’t illegal but considered unethical. Several online platforms have strict policies against doxxers so that their platform offers a safe environment for everyone. In short, if you’re caught doxxing, you won’t be prosecuted.
However, you will be prosecuted if you use the information to harm the person or the organization. In an event where doxxing is being used to stalk, harass or conduct identity theft, it is illegal.
In a recent survey, 65% of respondents said that doxxing should be criminalized in certain situations, while 50% said that doxxing should be criminalized in all cases.
How Doxxing Can Ruin Your Life
Generally, you’re not at risk of doxxing unless you give someone a motive to dox you. If you’re poking into someone else’s life and work, you’re giving them a reason to dox you. The most common motive for doxxing is revenge, where the hacker reveals your private information for illicit gains.
If someone were to dox you, your entire life could turn upside down in an instant. The attack could use your private information to gain a sense of where you live. They might stalk you and keep tabs on where you go and who you interact with.
If you’ve shared any financial information online, the attack could use it to hack into your bank account and withdraw funds. If they get a hold of your number or email address, they might spam your inbox with malicious links, which could install malware on your device if you accidentally click the link.
The hacker would be able to spy on your online activities and know exactly what you’re doing, or worse; you become a victim of identity theft.
How to Protect Yourself from Doxxing
Follow strict social media privacy. We share a lot of our daily happenings on social media. Activities such as check-ins, going live, sharing photos, comments, and other engagements contain too much private information. You should limit sharing such details publicly.
Always be careful of what information you share publicly. Use privacy settings on social media accounts to limit social platforms from gaining access to your private information.
Don’t accept friend requests from unknown people so that only those you know personally can see your private information. Additionally, ensure the following:
- Protect your IP address with a VPN for online anonymity
- Don’t use login with Facebook/Google button
- Don’t use your email on public forums
- Don’t share too much of your personal life
- Review the information Google has on you
Keep in mind that once you’ve posted something online, it’s never a hundred percent secure as it stays on the web somewhere even after you’ve deleted it. Make sure only to share information that won’t make you a target or harm you later on.