Cyber attacks are now becoming common, and every internet user is in danger of having a cyber attack on their system. One of the cyber attacks is Doxxing that became popular in the early 1990s. However, many people are still unaware of Doxxing and if you are one of them, read this article from start to end. We have included all information about Doxxing that can help you to understand it easily.
What is Doxxing?
Doxxing, also known as "doxing," is a threat to your privacy. It is a cyber-attack that reveals the real information related to an internet user. Once the information is released, others can target them with malicious attacks. Doxxing has been around since the early 1990s, but now, anyone who uses the internet is a potential victim. Doxxing involves researching the personal details of people's lives. Once the information is gathered, it can be used for (but not limited to):
- Expose a person for legal prosecution
- Embarrass the victim
- Draw criticism towards the victim
- Cause physical harm
Having a Doxxing attack has some serious consequences where people's lives have been ruined. The after-effects of Doxxing can result in the victim losing their jobs, families, and sometimes their lives.
History of Doxxing
Doxxing surfaced during the early 1990s when hackers started putting documents of their rivals out of spite. This has evolved a lot since the '90s. But why the term 'Doxxing'?
The idea behind this type of attack is to reveal information initially in the form of documents. So 'documents' became 'dox', and the act of dropping docs turned into the term 'Doxxing'. When a person becomes a victim of Doxxing means that his personal information is being documented. The most important pieces of information are
- a person's social security number
- home address
- telephone number
- email address
- social media profiles
- place of work
- details of relatives, children, parents, and so on.
In the early days, Doxxing was used to identify hackers and their misdeeds which was handed to authorities to get them arrested. Now the same thing is used for good and bad. Doxxing has messed up the lives of a lot of people.
What is the Purpose of Doxxing?
Doxxing is like a knife. You can use the knife to cut vegetables, or it can be used as a deadly weapon. The same principle for Doxxing can either be used for good or evil. The motive depends on the attacker. As mentioned earlier, the way personal information is thrown on the internet depends on the person. However, the process is the same, no matter the purpose.
An attacker researches a victim and manipulates that information to be used for their gains. The Anonymous group is an example of Doxxing, where information is released to the world. (An internet vigilante). Some people can see their actions as good, while another group might see it as a bad act.
Another example is the 4chan message board which has millions of users. Some Doxxing attacks resulted in victims getting prank telephone calls, abusive emails, huge amounts of text messages, and even physical attacks on the victims.
Types of Doxxing
There are different types of Doxxing attacks that have happened in the past. While these attacks are negative and fueled by the need for revenge, the victim doesn't necessarily have to be a bad person. A biomedical engineer Kyle Quinn was falsely identified as taking part in a neo-nazi rally. The marcher looked a bit like him, but once the Doxxers got involved, Kyle's life became quite tough.
However, he was lucky because he was out in public that night and several colleagues from the University's administration as witnesses to his innocence. While he was lucky, not all cases end up in such a positive light. When a prankster wanted revenge on someone in the old days, they would call up all the pizza delivery places in town, posing as the victim to order pizzas. This will have many angry pizza delivery guys in front of his house demanding payment for the pizzas.
Now, these pranks have turned into serious life-threatening situations known as Swatting. Swatting is becoming an increasingly common form of revenge and could not be practised without Doxxing.
What is Swatting then?
Similar to the pizza prank, Swatting takes place when a prank call is set up for the police or SWAT units with the victim's address. If a person is being Doxxed, then it can easily lead up to Swatting. Once a victim's address is found, the attacker will call the police by making fake bomb threats or mass shootings in a school or other serious cases. The attacker makes sure to expose the discovered contact details of the victim.
The attacker will phone the local police claiming that the victim has a bomb or gun and is plotting a terrorist attack. Once the call is finished, the police will show up at the unsuspecting victim's house. The officers that will respond will come armed and ready for the threat described during the call.
An incident happened which resulted in the death of Andrew Finch in December 2017. Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles called the police in Wichita, Kansas, claiming to have shot someone and that he also held two hostages. The police SWAT team immediately went in force to the address. When Andrew Finch walked out of the house to find out what was going on, the SWAT team shot him dead.
This happened due to a dispute between two call of duty gamers. However, neither Barriss nor Finch was involved with the initial dispute. Barriss was acting on behalf of the disgruntled bet loser and acquired the wrong address for the target. That address was the home of Finch’s mother, whom he was visiting at the time.
How Harmful is Doxxing?
The Internet is an ocean of information, and whatever you want, you will find it here. But doxxing may seem harmless before it harms you. People, most of the time, share their private information on the internet so that others can find them and know them. But what if someone researches you deeply and finds out the information that you don’t remember sharing in the first place? But that information can be used to harm you, and the consequences can be severe. By getting your private information, bad people can use it against you for these things:
- They can make a prank call to you
- And expose your identities
- You might have to delete your social media accounts
But these are some harmless consequences that won’t cause any serious damage. But the severe cases can put you into these:
- Humiliation and shaming in public
- Identity theft
- Online harassment
- Destroying your professional or personal reputation
- Loss of lives
- Loss of job or family and friends
- Legal prosecution
None of these cases is cool, and when any of these happen due to doxxing, you should take some time to report the case to the police. Below, we have mentioned some of the most important points that you should consider if you have been doxxed on the internet.
Things to Consider if You Have Been Doxxed:
You can effortlessly find out if you were doxxed because most of the time, the harassment is done publicly, and they are apparent. If you notice a strange social media growth such as the number count of your followers or people calling you from unknown numbers, sending anonymous messages, you will know that you have been doxxed. Even though you don’t really know if you have been doxxed, there are some things you can try right away:
- Record all the evidence you have, including phone calls
- Report the harassment with the evidence to the platform you think is the source of the issue
- Try to report the cybercrime to other related authorities
- Try to change passwords of your social media accounts, including Gmail (better to be safe) and enable multi-factor authentication wherever applicable. Also, try to increase your privacy settings to secure your account even more.
- Ask your trusted people how to get rid of the issue
- You should change your number permanently or at least momentarily
These are some of the things you can do immediately when you find out that you have been doxxed. But the authorities will only take action against the event if it is illegal.
Is Doxxing Illegal?
The legal status of doxxing depends on the context and basis of the case, along with its jurisdiction. The first thing to remember is if the information they used to dox you were publicly and clearly available, the doxxing isn’t illegal. However, if the information was not available publicly and was falsely created or found to harass the user, the doxxing will be illegal. If the information is private and not easy to access, then it means they are harassing the user’s privacy. And any kind of harassment is not legal. Depending on the nature of the harassment, the perpetrator may be charged.
For example, if the perpetrator commits identity theft or violence on the victim, he will be charged. Even the perpetrator can go to jail if he is found guilty.
Even though the nature of doxxing tells whether or not the criminal will be punished, it is on you to keep your social media account safe. Follow the next section to know how to avoid doxxing.
How to Avoid Doxxing?
There are many more incidents that relate to Doxxing at different levels. No one wants to fall victim to a Doxxing attack, so here are a few tips and tricks to keep yourself safe.
- Don’t reveal too much information. The more you write on forums and message boards, the higher your chances of accidentally revealing personal information about you. If you use social media, it’s even more dangerous.
- Packet sniffing is a hacking method where the doxxed intercepts your Internet data, looking for valuable information about you, such as emails, passwords, credit card data, and so on.
- Use a VPN. A VPN not only hides your identity online but also encrypts all the data going to and from your devices.
- Doxxers analyze meta-data. Most files have Metadata on them. In Microsoft Word, the Metadata includes data about who made the file, when, from what computer. This company made it and even total editing time.
- IP loggers are tools used on the internet to sniff out a person's IP address. In a nutshell, these loggers attach an invisible code to a message or email, and once the receiver opens the message, the code tracks his IP address and secretly sends it back to the IP logger.
As the few cases above show, a stupid row or lack of correct information can lead to life-threatening mob attacks on individuals. An argument on social media can escalate to false accusations and a hate campaign. Doxxing adds teeth to these disputes, leading to psychological destruction or even physical attacks. Doxxing takes cyberbullying to the next level.
Without the research into Doxxing's personal information, online disputes could be left online. Take care of what you will do online, and remember that there is no way to remove it once it's out on the internet.
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