What is Doxxing and what can victims do
The internet is a double-edged sword. It has revolutionized the way we communicate and access information, and made us more connected than ever. However, it has also opened the door to a darker side of human behavior. One such phenomenon is doxxing, a malicious act that involves exposing someone’s private information online with the intent to intimidate, cyberbully, harass, stalk, or even commit identity theft.
Doxxing, or doxxing, short for “dropping documents,” refers to publishing someone’s information on the internet without their permission. This information typically includes the target’s full name, home address, phone number, email address, workplace details, and sometimes even financial data. This intrusive act is typically carried out by motivated individuals seeking to harm or intimidate their targets for personal or ideological reasons.
Some doxxing attacks are rooted in harassment, revenge porn, cyber stalking or cyberbullying, while others target people who anonymously post bigoted comments online or who are caught on camera promoting such beliefs.
Some of the methods doxxers use:
- Tracking usernames
- WHOIS search on a domain
- Social media stalking
- Tracking IP addresses
- Reverse phone lookup
- Packet sniffing
What method or methods a doxxer applies depends on the intent they have.
Malicious Intent and Connections
Intimidation: doxxing is frequently employed as a means of intimidation to silence individuals expressing dissenting opinions, whistleblowers, or those involved in contentious public discussions. By revealing private details, the perpetrators aim to instill fear, making the victims think twice before expressing their views or taking a stand.
Cyberbullying: doxxing can be a weapon in the hands of cyberbullies. Exposing personal information allows them to further target their victims, amplifying the impact of their online attacks. This can lead to severe emotional distress, psychological trauma, and damage to an individual’s reputation, both online and offline.
Harassment and Stalking: With personal information in their possession, doxers can escalate their actions to offline spaces. They may engage in persistent harassment, stalking, or even direct physical threats against their targets. This intrusion into the victim’s personal life can have devastating consequences, affecting their sense of security and well-being.
Identity Theft: The exposure of sensitive personal data through doxxing increases the risk of identity theft. Criminals may exploit the information obtained to carry out fraudulent activities, including financial scams, opening fake accounts, or impersonating the victim for nefarious purposes.
There are some things you can do to take preventive measures to reduce the chance of someone exposing your personal information publicly.
- Protect your personal information by being careful with who you share you information on the internet. Limit disclosing personal details about yourself on social media, forums, and other internet spaces.
- Use privacy settings on social media to control who can see your information. Review and update these settings regularly to make sure they still offer the maximum security.
- Avoid getting involved in heated online debates or sharing controversial views that could attract unwanted attention and make you a target.
- Use strong, and unique passwords for all your online accounts and set up two-factor authentication whenever possible.
Hiring Cyber Investigators to Identify Internet Trolls
Cyber investigators, who specialize in identifying anonymous users on the internet, can help identify the individual responsible for the doxxing. Having a name gives you options:
- Ask them directly to take the personal information down
- Serve a cease-and-desist letter
- Take them to court to sue for damages
People think they are untouchable and anonymous on the internet, but there is no such thing. We can identify most anonymous users hiding behind social profiles, websites, phone numbers, email addresses, Instagram, etc.
Is Doxxing Illegal?
Doxxing is in most places not illegal, because there are no specific laws against doxxing in most jurisdictions. It is essential to consult the laws of your specific jurisdiction to understand the exact legal implications.
Is doxxing illegal is a question that needs to be asked on a case-by-case basis. While publishing information that is publicly available is rarely illegal, it may be accompanied by other crimes such as stalking, identity theft, incitement to violence, or other types of harassment. These are crimes a doxxer can be charged for.
Because of the increase of doxxing, governments around the world have recently started to propose and pass anti-doxxing laws.
While laws about doxxing differs per state, there are some common legal considerations related to doxxing:
Privacy Laws: Many countries have privacy laws that protect individuals from the unauthorized disclosure of their personal information. Since doxxing typically involves the public disclosure of someone’s private details without their permission, this can potentially violate privacy laws.
Harassment and Stalking Laws: Exposing personal information often goes hand in hand with the intent to engage in harassment, stalking, or other malicious activities. These actions can be considered illegal under laws related to harassment, stalking, or cyberbullying, depending on the jurisdiction.
Identity Theft Laws: When doxxing leads to the use of someone’s personal information for fraudulent purposes, such as identity theft or financial scams, it can be subject to prosecution under identity theft laws.