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Defining Doxing And Learning How to Avoid It

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From August 2015 to August 2017, a man named Rodney Phipps was sentenced to prison for making fake phone calls to emergency services—calls that would end up sending SWAT and police to strangers’ residences in practice known as “swatting.”

The District of Delaware sentenced Phipps to 37 months in prison for the phone calls. However, Phipps is not the only one guilty of such phone calls. Numerous swatting attempts have been made in the past by various people.

Even then, the practice of swatting is only a subset of a much larger problem facing businesses and citizens everywhere: doxing.

Defining Doxing

Doxing is the practice of releasing someone’s private and personal information to the public and/or using said information to threaten them and put their lives at risk.

Doxing is often used as a form of revenge, but everyone, from regular people living their lives to celebrities who have made headlines, is at risk of becoming a victim of doxing.

All someone needs to do to dox someone knows where to look and when. Documents, personal information, pictures: these can all be found if someone knows where to look, and piecing this information together is not as hard as one might think.

Keep in mind that there are many forms of doxing, some of which we are going to go over.

The Forms of Doxing

1. Swatting

Earlier, we discussed a recent case of swatting, the practice of doxing someone and using their personal information to send SWAT teams over by way of fake threats or emergency tips.

Swatting started making headlines in the early 2010s, where teens and adults would swat people they deemed deserving of it. These victims usually ended up being online celebrities, streamers, or people the swatter competed against in a video game.

Swatting is extremely dangerous. And after one incident ended up being fatal, states and countries have begun cracking down on swatting harder than ever, which has—thankfully-reduced the amount of swatting incidents in the past couple of years.

2. Revenge Doxes

We go about our lives doing our best to not upset the people we meet throughout our day-to-day, not only out of kindness but because there is no telling what someone will do once provoked.

Unfortunately, many with technical abilities seek revenge through revenge doxing, doxing that happens as an act of retaliation against someone.

Revenge doxes often end up being found out through threats. The doxer threatens to release the personal information of their victim. However, criminals may practice revenge doxing in order to locate their victims for more nefarious reasons.

Revenge doxing frequently happens due to the plethora of personal information that can be found online.

3. Leaked/Breach Doxing

Not every doxing is done because of personal revenge or anger at a video game. Sometimes, doxes happen because of security holes, data breaches, and leaks.

A famous example of this is the infamous iCloud hack of 2014. In 2014, a security issue within iCloud was made vulnerable, and the private pictures of numerous celebrities who had their pictures leaked to the world without their permission. They were doxed.

Data breaches and data leaks, especially software leaks, make doxing easier than ever. Worse is that data breaches are becoming far too frequent.

How To Avoid Being Doxed in 2020

Becoming a victim of doxing forfeits your privacy not only on the Internet but in real life as well. And that’s not to mention the potentially fatal consequences of being doxed. Because of the dangers that foxing presents, it’s important you know how to prevent yourself from being doxed.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do so:

Limiting The Amount of Personal Information You Share

The worst thing you can do is give cybercriminals easy access to your personal information. Remember, the more information they have access to, the easier it will be for them to dox you.

Limit what you post on social media. Use a fake name if you feel so inclined. Don’t give out location details. No matter what you do, try to keep your identity hidden from the Internet.

Anonymizing Your Presence on the Internet

However, simply limiting the amount of information you share about yourself will only go so far. Many people who dox know their way around a network, and chances are they know how to find your information, usually through spying on your online activity.

Staying off public networks, using a VPN, and even limiting how often you’re online reduces the risk of someone monitoring your online activity.

Using Strong Passwords

Finally, it’s always a good idea to use strong passwords for all of your accounts. After all, your accounts are vaults that contain bounties of your personal information. Having them hacked only puts you at risk.

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Jack Warner on Email
Jack Warner
Technology Specialist at TechWarn
Jack is an accomplished cybersecurity expert with years of experience under his belt at TechWarn, a trusted digital agency to world-class cybersecurity companies. A passionate digital safety advocate himself, Jack frequently contributes to tech blogs and digital media sharing expert insights on cybersecurity and privacy tools.

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