What Is Doxxing, Is It Illegal, and How Do You Protect Yourself From It? Everything You Need to Know
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The practice of doxxing is becoming more and more popular. But what precisely is doxxing, and is there anything you can do to protect yourself from it?
Our personal lives are regarded as our own, and the only people we invite into them are those in whom we have complete faith. It is because it seems like a violation when someone breaks into your home, even if nothing of value is taken. This is why home invasions are so disturbing. Some people search for your personal information with the intention of doing you harm by publishing it on the internet in violation of your rights.
Doxxing is a term that was coined to describe a disturbing activity that has grown so common as a form of digital violence that it even has a name. It is an issue that is especially prevalent on social networks, particularly public ones. Some users single out others for harassment because they hold opinions that are incompatible with their own or even for factors as fundamental as their gender, background, or ethnicity.
What exactly does it mean to be doxxed, how did it come to be such a popular practice, and is there anything you can do to stop yourself from being doxxed?
What Does It Mean to Dox Someone?
In most cases, we consider the location that we call home to be a secure abode. It’s one of the few places where we can be exactly who we want to be without worrying about being evaluated, so we take advantage of it whenever we can. Additionally, it has very close and personal feelings about it. Because of this, we take precautions to protect sensitive information such as our address. The circumstances of our professional and social lives are very much the same.
We have a natural appreciation for privacy, and our ways of interacting with others in social settings vary. For instance, the way in which you converse and conduct yourself around your coworkers at work is probably different from the way in which you engage with your friends. We compartmentalize our life into areas determined by who we can trust.
When we are ready, and only when we are ready, we will reveal personally identifying information such as our complete name, our place of employment, as well as our home address. On the other hand, things are handled differently online. Although we don’t typically reveal private information about ourselves in public settings on the internet, we do make ourselves visible to others.
We tend to be more open about our ideas, thoughts, and hobbies online than we are in the real world, whether it’s through our LinkedIn profiles for professional purposes, Instagram for lifestyle sharing, or Twitter for voicing our opinions. While doing so makes it easier to interact with those who share similar interests, it also means that you are visible to everyone and not just the ones you can put your faith in.
There is a subset of internet users who are of the opinion that it is acceptable to harass, embarrass, or otherwise cause harm to individuals with whom they disagree. Because it is not possible to cause physical harm online, they resort to something else, fear and shame, which can sometimes be more detrimental in the long run than the original act.
What Is Doxxing?
An assortment of methods, such as Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT), searching publicly accessible databases, analyzing social media postings and profiles, hacking, and social engineering are used by the attackers to collect personally identifiable information from their targets.
When they have information in their possession, they will make it available to the general public online in the hope that their supporters and followers will harass you. This could be done with the intention of removing you from your position, getting you fired from your job, embarrassing you, or even causing you physical injury in the most extreme of situations.
Doxxing is the practice of exposing personal information about another person. Initially, the phrase was derived from the abbreviation of documents, which is dox. The invasion of another person’s privacy in this manner came to be known as doxing, although the use of the variant with the double “x,” doxxing, is now more frequent.
At first, it was a strategy that was utilized in the early hacking scene, when the majority of individuals preferred to remain anonymous. Hackers would dox other users in order to call law enforcement’s attention to their true identities as a form of retaliation for perceived slights or controversial ideas expressed by those users.
Although there hasn’t been much of a shift in the techniques used throughout time, the number and severity of the attacks have increased. The hacking community was aware of the precarious situations they were putting themselves in as well as the hazards that were linked with those predicaments. Ana Dascalescu, a member of Heimlan Security, penned an article in which she shared the experiences of people who had been victims of doxxing, as well as examples, strategies, and other information regarding how doxxing is carried out in today’s world. If you are unsure about what doxxing is, you can read
They could, at the very least, be ready for anything that may come their way, which is not to say that this justifies the method. The most major change that has occurred is that doxxing is increasingly frequently directed towards regular users, people who do not have any form of protection, and for a wide variety of reasons that are frequently inconsequential.
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In a similar vein, individuals who have positions of responsibility or who are involved in contentious topics such as politics, abortion, or vaccines are frequently the targets of online harassment in the form of doxxing attacks. The same is true for female users as well as people who are not white and who are commonly doxxed for racist and sexist motives.
This has the compounding effect of moving communities that are already excluded further away from social networks and public areas, which makes it more difficult to create positive connections. Doxxers can overwhelm their victim by using malicious social media bots, which gives them another tool in their arsenal. Every every instance of doxxing represents an attempt to terrify and jeopardise the person who has been targeted.
Nevertheless, when taken together, these more targeted strikes have a more widespread impact. Doxxing efforts, which target institutions or individuals who hold particular opinions or characteristics, are an attempt to stifle conversations and prevent individuals from exercising their right to freedom of expression.
Those responsible for the dox would prefer to silence the opposing side in order to hide a view on a particular issue; this has been a common occurrence on topics such as the elections in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic, and even the war in Ukraine. Instead of creating a debate that is constructive, the dox would rather silence the opposing side.
Is Doxxing Illegal?
Doxxing is not a crime in and of itself, which is unfortunate because it should be. It is against the law to gain unauthorized access to the computer or other personal device of another person. This is the case regardless of whether or not the information obtained is disclosed. The state or federal courts may even hear cases involving these offences. Doxxing is not breaking the law because it relies mostly on open source intelligence (OSINT), which is information that is readily available to the public.
Regardless of whether or not a court considers being doxxed to be an invasion of privacy, the concept and the tactics involved are still relatively new, making it difficult for legislators and courts to keep up with new legislation designed to protect individuals. Doxxing is also used by journalists and activists to combat hate speech and expose trolls, thus not all government officials and legislators regard it as a specific concern. This is due to the fact that doxxing can also be utilised in these ways.
In spite of the fact that it can be extremely harmful, the act of doxxing is not punishable by law for a number of important reasons. Because each doxxing must be evaluated based on its own unique set of circumstances, it is difficult to define “doxxing” as a criminal act in a way that avoids being overly general.
The court is required to conduct a separate analysis of a variety of factors, including personal motivations for doxxing, the harm caused to the victim, the nature of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, the manner in which the information was disseminated, the doxxer’s intent, and so on. The legislation needs to be comprehensive enough to cover all instances of doxxing without being so all-encompassing that it has unintended repercussions, and this is a tricky balancing act.
However, this does not mean that passing legislation is an impossible task. In spite of this, there is currently no legal recourse for doxxing because of the cumulative effects of the passage of time, the lack of political interest, and the difficulties in characterising the problem. If you have been the target of a doxxing attack, you are still required to file a report about the occurrence with the appropriate authorities.
Doxxing is not in and of itself a criminal infraction; but, if the information obtained through it is used to commit another crime, such as harassment, stalking, or fraud, then doxxing might be considered a contributing factor to those crimes. In spite of the fact that we are unable to prosecute this as a case of doxxing, it is likely that there are other legal avenues that we can pursue. The investigation into how the culprit obtained the information and how they exploited it could lead law enforcement to a resolution of the case.
How To Protect Yourself from Doxxing Attacks
Even though we’d like to think that most individuals have a positive moral character, the reality is that some people intentionally harm others. Before the advent of the internet, a person would have to have prior knowledge of your identity in order to target you. On the other hand, these days it is not difficult to locate us online. The greater the number of individuals who are able to view your profiles, hobbies, and beliefs, the greater the likelihood that someone with malicious intent will come across your online presence. But don’t panic, because there are a lot of things you can take to avoid being doxxed. Here are some of the most fundamental ones, though:
As was just indicated, the primary objective of the vast majority of doxxing attacks is to instil fear and put an end to discourse. Many people believe that you shouldn’t have to be frightened of being who you are online, despite the fact that it is totally acceptable to be uncertain or even fearful of the potential consequences of what could happen. It is essential to strike a balance between the freedom to express who you are and the need to guard your privacy.
The first thing you need to do is think about whether or not the topics you wish to post about could be interpreted as being contentious. In that case, you should evaluate how you feel about the possibility of associating yourself with the issues at hand. It’s possible that you’ll conclude it’s critical to defend your principles while simultaneously placing a high priority on your personal security and discretion. As a consequence of this, it could be beneficial to set up other identities, profiles, or email addresses specifically for the purpose of discussing these issues.
There is no doubt that anonymity is an issue on the internet because it enables users to behave badly without fear of any consequences. However, the ability to remain anonymous is also a crucial component of the internet. In our everyday lives, we are subject to a variety of expectations, cultural pressures, and reputations that must be upheld. Pseudonymous accounts give us the opportunity to communicate ideas, sentiments, and perspectives that we might not feel comfortable identifying with our true identities in the actual world.
Adjusting the privacy settings on all of your accounts and social networks is something you should do as soon as you’ve made a decision about how you want to display yourself online. You should also make sure that each service has a strong, unique password, and you should think about using a password manager so that you can save your passwords in a secure manner.
Also, before you publish anything on the internet, give some thought to the information about yourself that will be made public. For instance, if you take a picture on the street where you reside, it will reveal your location. There are many different kinds of information that you should never publish on the internet.
Staying Safe Online
Doxxing is a form of cyberbullying that, due to the nature of the internet, cannot always be avoided. If someone is intent on invading your privacy, there is a chance that they will be able to obtain sufficient knowledge to cause you harm. Nevertheless, there are preventative measures that you may do that will make the task more difficult for them to complete.
The good news is that the steps you take to preserve your privacy are advantageous to you in general and can assist in protecting your information in the event of a data breach. You can make one of the most major changes you can by switching from a free email provider, such as Gmail or Outlook, to a secure and encrypted option, such as ProtonMail or Tutanota. This is one of the most significant changes you can make.