The internet, as we know it, has been around for decades at this point and it's evolved a lot. One particular aspect of being online that is slowly going away is our ability to be anonymous online.
Remember the days of anonymity being on the message boards with an alias that only you knew the reason behind and not having to worry about being discovered? Those days are, for the most part, gone. Now, real names, IP addresses, data breaches, social media, and other publicly accessible databases are flowing like rivers of information, exposing us on the world wide web.
As our anonymity goes away, so does our ability to stay safe. Today, "doxing" is becoming the de facto method of cyber-revenge against others putting themselves out there. In this guide, we'll uncover what doxing is and how you can help prevent an attack against you.
What is doxing?
Doxing is when your personal identity is compromised and it can happen with or without your knowledge. It comes from the combination of the word document and the word tracing. It refers to the collection of documents of an individual or organization in order to learn more about them. Doxing takes place over the internet and includes hunting for details on a person.
This internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable data can be obtained by searching openly available databases, social media websites, hacking, and social engineering. Doxxers analyze file metadata, public Wi-Fi packet sniffing, IP loggers, and the previously mentioned data.
What a dox typically includes is your real name, phone number, address, Social Security number, personal photos, social network profiles, credit card, banking information, online accounts and email addresses.
Doxing can be used for a variety of reasons including general people searching on Google, aiding law enforcement agencies, business analysis, risk analytics.
It can also be used for immoral reasons such as extortion, coercion, infliction of harm, harassment, online shaming, and vigilante justice.
These immoral reasons for doxing are usually conducted by anonymous bad actors who lack fear of retaliation or consequence as they unleash their inner bully.
Anonymity has become a tremendous factor in cyberbullying, as it’s much easier to be harmful if you don’t have to face the hurt of your victims. Destroying an individual’s anonymity has become one of the most powerful online weapons available, and a way to hurt someone from many miles away.
How to protect yourself from doxing
No one seems to be safe from doxing. Public figures including celebrities, politicians, and even YouTuber's have been the victims of these sort of attacks.
Even though resistance might seem futile, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Here are some ideas:
- Using a fake name instead of your real name where only your friends and family know that it's you
- Trusted proxies or a VPN can be used to visit websites as a means to keep your real IP address anonymous
- Create multiple usernames and email addresses instead of keeping everything uniform with your primary personal email. You can help keep safe by diversifying emails you use to sign-up for various digital platforms and you don't have to associate sensitive information with these extra email addresses
- Invest in WHOIS protection which can be obtained either at an added cost or for free from services such as Google Domains or DreamHost.com when registering a website domain
- Use strong passwords for emails and online accounts. Here are some new ways to come up with secure passwords.
- Use multi-factor authorization for critical services like Google Drive, PayPal, and other services with the ability to make purchases. Two-factor authentication should be enabled whenever it is available.
- Increase social network privacy settings and edit your profile so you're only sharing with friends or people you actually know. Change these critical Facebook settings now.
- Don’t use the Login with "SOCIAL MEDIA" platform of choice buttons on websites that require or ask you to register using your social media account. Instead, create an account using an email address not associated with your social media platform. This ensures your information isn't shared with social media
- Make sure Google doesn’t have any personal information about you. Even though that's nearly impossible, you can delete everything you've ever searched for through Google. Click here to find out how
Why you should be careful
The risk you have of being a victim of doxing increases as more of your personally identifiable information is available online. Hackers dox individuals online for revenge, malicious intent, protests, and simply to have control over someone else on the web.
Being doxed can result in not only stolen information but harassment, identity theft, humiliation, loss of a job or career, and rejection from your friends and family. Another practice frequently used in doxing, is swatting.
Swatting is the art of prank-calling the police or SWAT units and sending them to another person’s address. Typically in the online arena, a victim getting doxed can also lead to swatting as bad actors obtain someone’s address and makes false bomb threats or other serious disturbances, and the police show up to the unsuspecting victims’ home.
Digital bullies and trolls have the ability to be very inventive in how they dox you. By using a single clue they can follow it up until they gradually disclose your online persona and expose your identity.
With the angry mob of people on the internet who use doxing as a method to win arguments, you have to police what you say and have common sense on public comments.
Simply put, be careful and follow the steps above to help yourself avoid getting doxxed, and stay anonymous. If you'd like to search out some creepy public records websites such as Spokeo, Whitepages, Intelius, you can use a website called DeleteMe. If cost is an issue, it has a DIY guide for helping remove your public information.
Who's spying on you?
There was a time when tiny cameras brought to mind images of James Bond. But these cameras are now available to anyone who can afford them. And they are increasingly being used to spy on guests in hotel rooms and rental properties. Lawyer Marc Lamber says laws about the issue are murky. But don’t despair. There are ways to protect yourself.