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Finance glossary

What is doxxing?

Bristol James
6 Min

Doxxing is the act of maliciously revealing personal information about someone through the internet, such as their address, place of employment, phone number, or financial information. This information is then released to the public and circulated without the individual’s permission.

With the rise of social media making personal information much more accessible, doxxing has become more common.

The goal of doxxing is to inflict emotional and financial damage to the person through online harassment or bullying, involving the display of personal information online with malicious intent. Revealing an individual’s information without their consent has been around for decades, but the term dropping dox or doxxing is relatively new in the digital age.

Addressing doxxing and safeguarding your sensitive personal information is important as this bullying ploy gains popularity. Let’s go through the basics of doxxing, the potential consequences, and how you can limit your exposure to doxxing attacks.

Understanding doxxing

Doxxing occurs when a third party gains access to your private information and personal data. The third party will often use a social media profile as a starting point and track down your legal name and other key details.

Then, leveraging other platforms such as Google or other social channels, they may also piece together information surrounding your place of employment, address, and phone number. Once they’ve found all of your information, they share it on social media or another public platform for other’s to see, with the intent of causing harm.

Doxxing can result in more than just public humility. In fact, doxxing can give scammers the information needed to commit identity fraud and wire fraud, both of which can have serious financial implications.

The motivations behind doxxing aren’t always clear. For some, it could be revenge for a viewpoint or action they don’t agree with, or it could be sparked by some other friction point. Regardless of the intention, doxxing draws in severe ethical concerns and can come with criminal penalties.

The devastating consequences of doxxing

This practice generally falls into three main categories. The first is releasing the identifying information of a person online. The next category of doxxing is revealing previously unknown information about a private person online. The third category involves releasing damaging information about a person online. Doxxing can lead to an array of consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator, including:

  • Psychological and emotional impacts: One of the main goals of doxxing is public humiliation. When another individual posts about your personal information, it can be embarrassing and cause emotional harm.
  • Damage to professional reputations: If the individual doxxing contacts your employer, your professional credibility could be irreversibly harmed. For example, social media has been used to target medical practitioners, leading to the voiding of their professional licenses and ability to practice medicine.
  • Financial implications: Scammers who gain access to your personal information, such as your legal name, employer, and address, have an easier time stealing your identity. This might include opening credit cards in your name, stealing funds from your bank accounts, and running charges through your credit card.
  • Criminal repercussions: – Severe instances of doxxing can be illegal depending on where you live, as it is a form of online bullying and harassment. In addition, doxxing that results in identity theft is punishable in several jurisdictions.

Doxxing can have devastating consequences for all parties involved. This makes protecting your private information a top priority.

Case studies of high-profile doxxing incidents

Doxxing is common among famous and wealthy individuals and businesses.

  • Ashley Madison: was a popular online dating site for individuals who wanted to date outside of their committed relationships. A hacker group got ahold of the personal information on Ashely Madison and used blackmail to demand payment, otherwise threatening to release the information to the public. When those demands were not met, the hacker group released the sensitive information of millions of users, which caused embarrassment, humiliation, and harm to personal and professional reputations.
  • Scarlett Johansson – The famous actor Scarlett Johansson was one of the victims of doxxing in April 2013. Personal information, including her social security number and credit score, was released to the public, resulting in financial damages.
  • Boston Marathon Bombing – After the Boston Marathon Bombing, the general public took it upon themselves to uncover the culprits. As a result, many innocent people who were not involved in the crime were victims of doxxing, with their personal information being released to the general public.

It’s important to remember that doxxing can occur in both a personal and business setting. When a business is the victim of doxxing, it can have irreversible impacts on brand image.

Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Doxxing

Doxxing can be hard to prosecute, especially when there are hundreds of people involved, like in the Boston Marathon Bombing incident. However, authoritative bodies are moving toward more legislation surrounding the legality of doxxing.

Currently, many countries don’t have formal legislation that deems doxxing illegal if the information was obtained through the public domain and using legal methods. That being said, doxxing can tread on the line of stalking, harassment, and threats, all of which carry legal weight.

The specifics of the information revealed can also impact the legality of doxxing. Disclosing someone’s real name isn’t as serious as sharing their address or identification number with the general public. Nevertheless, doxxing government employees is generally taken more seriously, as it can be classified as a matter of national security.

Without formal legislation in place, the issue of doxxing boils down to ethics. Is it ethical to post someone’s personal information because they don’t agree with you? Probably not. Doxxing can have serious consequences, both emotionally and financially, which is why it’s important to educate about the ethical concerns.

Combatting Doxxing: Prevention and Solutions

Anyone who posts online or uses technology can become a victim of doxxing, especially as your digital footprint is stored in public databases, search engines, and state records. As an individual or business owner, here are some things you can do to protect yourself from doxxing:

  • Protect Your IP Address with a VPN – A virtual private network, known as a VPN, can protect your IP address from exposure through encryption. This allows you to browse the internet anonymously and keeps your communications private from cyber threats.
  • Use Cybersecurity Programs – Anti-virus software can stop doxxers from harvesting your information through cyberattacks, like phishing scams and wire fraud. Business owners should also ensure they have the proper cybersecurity controls in place.
  • Frequently Change Passwords – Passwords are usually the only thing protecting your account from unauthorized access. Frequently changing your passwords to difficult combinations can safeguard your accounts from doxxing.
  • Change Usernames – Oftentimes, individuals and business owners will use the same username on all platforms. Although this can help you build brand image, it makes it incredibly easy for a doxxer to find all of your social media accounts and harvest personal information.
  • Review Privacy Settings – Each social media platform and online account has privacy settings that you can adjust, like making your accounts private. Review these settings to ensure they minimize your risk of doxxing.
  • Scrub Your Data – When you sign up for a new account, there is usually a checkbox that allows the site to use your data. Scrubbing your information from data broker sites, like Epsilon and Oracle, is a great starting point.
  • Advocate for New Legislation – Without advocacy, lawmakers and enforcement agencies won’t create new doxxing provisions. Signing petitions and advocating for change can give politicians a push to pass new legislation.

If you are unsure where to start, try doxxing yourself. This means Googling your information, carrying out reverse image searches, and auditing your social media profiles. How easy was it to find your personal information? Use this as a starting point to protect yourself online.

If you do become a victim of doxxing, it’s important that you report the incident to the proper authorities, document the doxxing, lock down your accounts, and verify your financial information wasn’t compromised.

Summary: The Bottom Line

  • Doxxing occurs when someone releases your personal information to the public, like your address, place of employment, and telephone number.
  • Doxxing comes with severe consequences, like emotional and psychological side effects, financial implications, and reputational harm.
  • Although doxxing isn’t illegal in many places, it’s generally not considered ethical.

Changing your passwords and usernames, reviewing your privacy settings, and advocating for change are different ways

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