By: Lexi Kakis
If you’ve never been doxxed, consider yourself lucky.
According to the Oxford dictionary, being doxxed means that someone has publicly identified or published private information about another person, especially as a form of punishment.
Doxxing is a form of online harassment and cyberbullying, often rooted in revenge.
During the 1990s, hackers coined the term ‘dropping docs’ as in documents. Along the way, ‘docs’ became ‘dox’ and the term grew in popularity when the international hacktivist collective group, Anonymous, started using it in the early 2000s.
Sadly, anyone can become a victim of doxxing, and data shows that it’s widespread. Twenty-one percent of Americans — more than 43 million individuals — report having personally experienced doxxing. An even greater number, 62%, personally know someone who has been a victim of this vicious attack.
The goal of a doxxer is to acquire as much damaging and private information about another person as possible…and it is absolutely damaging.
Leaking private information can result in lost friends, jobs, and even stolen identities.
Sometimes, doxxing can happen, and the person publishing information might not even understand the intensity of what they’re doing. What’s worse, these actions could derail an investigation.
Idaho University Homicides
A University of Idaho faculty member spoke with KPVI and shared that a woman on TikTok has forced her life into a stand-still…all because of baseless online claims.
A TikTok creator posted videos that said this faculty member, who wishes to keep her information private, knows more than she’s letting on about the crimes, and that she enlisted the ex-boyfriend of one of the victims to do the killings. In her videos, the creator has included the faculty member’s phone number and email address.
“She’s, like, torpedoing my life,” the faculty member said. “And for no apparent reason.”
Now, instead of spending precious investigative time on finding the individual(s) responsible for the deaths of the Idaho students, the Moscow Police Department is having to sift through large amounts of misinformation.
The Moscow Police Chief James Fry has issued a statement about the doxxing, saying “Anyone engaging in threads or harassment whether in person, online or otherwise needs to understand that they could be subjecting themselves to criminal charges.”
The Delphi Investigation
Since the investigation into the 2017 murders of Abby and Libby is back in the spotlight, locals and family members say the online harassment is starting again. There are claims that the original judge’s family was being doxxed, forcing them to step away from the case.
Before Richard Allen was arrested, the internet was filled with side-by-sides of random people’s faces compared to sketches and images of “the Bridge Guy.” This form of doxxing was careless, and it forced Kelsi German to take to Twitter and urge people to post the official wanted poster.
No investigation should be muddied with innocent people’s photos, names, and addresses. If you have information you think is helpful to a case — go to law enforcement, not the internet.
What does Doxxing Look Like?
There are several different types of doxxing attacks, depending on where and what type of information is being released.
- Social Media — Depending on the privacy settings, someone can be doxxed with the publicity available information that’s already out there. Anyone can learn a lot about someone through a social media profile.
- IP Doxxing — An IP address is associated with your location. Some hackers know how to get this information, and then can find someone’s exact address.
- Tracking Usernames — Some hackers will check across multiple platforms for the same username. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your usernames varied.
- Phishing — Some doxxers will try to fool someone with faulty communication (like a text message or an email) asking to confirm information.
- Reverse Phone Number Lookup — With a phone number, it is easier to gather identifiable information such as an address, email address and more. This is why it’s important to not give your phone number out to random websites looking for this information.
More recently, doxing has become a nuanced practice. According to US News, “Doxxing can take place over a day or a period of months and may combine information from public records, the dark web, and other sources.”
This can include information such as metadata, which is descriptive data that can provide information such as a timestamp, location, and more. With that information, the beginning of a data-based profile can start to take form without our consent.
An example of this is catfishing. Whereas a more obvious example of doxxing would be to posting someone’s home address and telephone number on a social media site.
Some real-world examples include the 2015 Ashley Madison data leak, where user information was made public or when Reddit users doxxed a wrongly accused student for planning the 2013 Boston Bombing attacks. Unfortunately, that student committed suicide before the attacks occurred.
How to Prevent Doxxing
In the age of digital citizen detective work, it’s important to stay vigilant and protect yourself when doing research. Not everyone wants to be found, and some people have a lot to hide.
First, protect yourself from the get-go. Look at the information that’s already publicly available about you online, and see how much of that you can limit or take down. This could be as simple as scrubbing your Facebook “About” section and making your social media channels private.
Make sure things like addresses, places of work, and specific locations are deleted from your account.
When doing any deep research in forums or dark parts of the internet, make sure to never use your full name or give away information about yourself. If you’re ever trying to connect with someone over the phone, try using Google Voice to protect your personal cell number.
You can also prevent doxxing by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. If you must use public wi-fi, turn off the public network sharing function on your device to keep your information safe.
If you are concerned about your social media accounts getting hacked as a result of your public information, consider changing passwords with strong password makers.
I’ve been Doxxed, Now What?
If you are being doxed, keep a record of it.
A great way to do this is by taking screenshots of your conversations or interactions with this individual as well as any residual harassment as a result of your personal information now being made public.
Alternatively, keep a USB drive on hand with copies of the screenshots and keep it for legal purposes.
Secondly, report the incidents to the platform. According to Avast.com, doxing violates the terms and service agreements on social media platforms. If you want to take it a step further, you can report it as a cybercrime to local officials, and add the report to your records. Doxing is illegal in some states.
Finally, change your passwords. Use stong password generators, and make sure to keep that information safely in a password manager.
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