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How to Prevent Yourself from Getting Doxed


How to Prevent Yourself from Getting Doxed


Protecting Yourself From Doxxing


Doxxing is a new phrase that has grown in importance in the rise of the digital information age. It can be used as a weapon, to intimidate and threaten everyone from politicians to celebrities to professors to gamers. While many people think they are not important enough to be targeted and attacked this way, the truth is that anyone can be doxed for a number of reasons.

 

What makes doxxing so uncomfortable is the loss of privacy and the idea that anyone can find you for reasons that are concerning maybe even criminal. This article will explain what doxxing is, the legal implications, and of course how to prevent yourself from getting doxed.


Watch: How to Prevent Yourself from Getting Doxed



What is Doxxing?


Doxxing is the malicious act of revealing someone's private information without their consent. This is usually done online.

The phrase “dox” is short for documents, meaning that someone has influential documents about the target, and they will take them public. It is also short for dropping dox.


This information can include a wide range of personally identifiable information, such as:


  • Full legal name

  • Home address

  • Birth date

  • Work address

  • Phone number

  • Email address

  • Financial information

  • Social media accounts – personal and professional

  • Browsing history

  • Images

  • Arrest records

  • Income information

  • Family members

  • Job history

  • Online dating profiles

  • Passwords

  • Social Security number

  • Credit card numbers

  • Online subscriptions

  • And even more personal data

Doxxing is often used as a form of intimidation or harassment. The goal is to embarrass the victim, damage their reputation, or even put them in physical danger. This is why it’s so important to protect yourself and your personal information online.


Note: Doxxing and its derivatives can be spelled one of two ways: “dox” or “doxx”. This article will use both spellings.


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How Does Doxxing Work?


Doxxers, those that want to harass or harm, typically follow a three-step process:


Doxxing Phase 1: Finding a Target


Anyone can be the target of doxing; it just depends on the circumstances. Regardless, the doxxer is highly motivated to harass the target enough to find information on them and publish it with the intent of causing embarrassment or physical harm.


Doxxing Phase 2: Finding the Information


Doxxers hunt for and collect information from various sources online. Here are some of their common tactics:


Social media profiles: Public information on social media platforms like Facebook, X, or Instagram can offer a wealth of information or at least give clues where to find more damaging material.

Public records: Depending on your location, some personal information may be accessible through public records, like property ownership, arrest records, newspaper articles, or voter registration rolls.

Data brokers: Data brokers collect and sell personally identifiable information from various sources like credit card companies or even your state’s department of motor vehicles. The lure of data brokers is that buying the information is legal and cheap. However, using that information to harass or intimidate someone does break the user agreement.

Phishing scams: Doxxers may use social engineering in emails or online messages to trick people into revealing personal information or stealing passwords.


Doxxing Phase 3: Publishing the Information


Once gathered, the information is usually circulated online. The information can be posted:

Websites or forums: Doxxers may post the information on websites or forums specifically dedicated to doxxing or in the area in which the target is known.

Social media platforms: Doxxing information can be spread quickly and widely on social media platforms. From here the information may be picked up by larger accounts like who may spread the information further.

Direct sharing: The information might be shared directly with the victim's friends, family, or employer. This method is highly personal.


Is Doxxing Actually Legal?


The short answer is that it depends. The legality of doxxing depends on how the information was obtained, the intent, and how it's used. In some cases, it may be considered a cybercrime or a violation of stalking or harassment laws.


While the word “doxxing” may not appear in your state’s laws it’s important to consider the harassment part of doxxing. There are many laws that protect citizens from harassment and even online harassment that may help initiate criminal investigations.


Can I sue Someone for Doxxing me?


Many states have their own laws against doxxing, but some only allow for civil litigation. In a civil case, a victim of doxxing could sue for monetary damages. California is working on, “The Doxing Victims Resource Act [AB 1979]” that would make this process easier for victims.


Is There a Federal Law Against Doxxing?


While the phrase doxxing does not appear in a federal law at the moment, there is protection in certain circumstances for some people in 18 U.S.C. § 119 (2021). This is entitled “Protection of individuals performing certain official duties” and it does not cover the vast majority of American citizens.


Unless you are in the military or are involved in a federal investigation or court case, you are not covered by this federal law.  


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Tips to Protect Yourself from Being Doxed

 

The first step in protecting yourself from being doxed is to be a good citizen. Making yourself a non-existent target is the best route. Don’t argue with people online, don’t make threats, and being the bigger person will go a long way in not being the target of doxxing.

 

Doxxing Prevention Tip: Online Interactions 


Social Engineering: Be cautious about requests for personal information online, even from seemingly legitimate sources. It’s okay to not send your name, address, and phone number to people for example when applying for a job online.

Watch your Downloads: Only download files from trusted sources. Malicious software can steal your personal information and a lot more.


Doxxing Prevention Tip: Security Measures 


Strong Passwords Plus Two-Factor Authentication: Use strong, unique passwords (or a password manager) and enable two-factor authentication for added security on all of your accounts.

Consider a VPN: Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can encrypt your internet traffic and mask your IP address, making it harder for doxxers to track you online. You can try NordVPN.


Doxxing Prevention Tip: Be Proactive 


Search for Yourself Online: Periodically do a search for your name to see what information is available.

Public Records: Some personal information may be accessible through government public records.


Doxxing Defense: Data Deletion

 

Data brokers offer the easiest way for a doxxer to find your personal information. According to McAffee a data broker “is an organization that makes money by collecting your personal information, analyzing it, and licensing it out to be used by other companies for things like marketing purposes”.


Data brokers can sell your personal, private information to people-search sites like WhitePages.com where anyone can search for, find, and purchase your data like:


·       Your full name

·       Alternate names

·       Birthdate

·       Gender

·       Marital status

·       Email address

·       Social media profiles

·       Family members

·       Court records

·       Phone numbers

·       Employers

·       And more!


And it is legal for people to buy your information from these sites. However, scammers, thieves, and doxxers will violate the terms of use when publishing this information with malicious intent. But at that point the damage is done, and it’s been done easily.

 

Fortunately, there are businesses that will delete your information from people-search sites and take on removing your data on your behalf. The most robust of these deletion solutions is DeleteMe.

 

I joined DeleteMe in 2018 after I discovered what data brokers were and how easy people-search sites made it to find me. I don’t have anything to hide necessarily, but the thought of someone finding me online and driving to my door is very unsettling. I see DeleteMe as a defensive tool as well as a privacy necessity.


Every quarter I get a report that says how many sites I’ve been deleted from and what sites they are currently in the process of removing my information from. In the case that they do find my data somewhere, they tell me they’re on it and how long the removal process will be, which is great.


I’m also given a privacy advisor that can answer any questions I have. Plus, I can make requests for them to help me. This is what I think sets DeleteMe apart from other data removal services, they have real people.


Many of the other services are automated bots that spam your information to people-search sites. DeleteMe has real, hardworking people who are privacy advocates working on your behalf. I partner with DeleteMe and you can read my full review of their service here.


Can Someone's IP Address Be Doxed?


An IP address itself isn't considered doxxing in the strictest sense like we have discussed. But many people ask this question.


Doxxing refers to revealing personal, private information. An IP address does not mean that a person went to a site or signed up for a service. It just means their internet connection was used to access a site, but whose fingers where on the keyboard?


Plus, an IP address only reveals a general location, like a city or zip code. It doesn't pinpoint the exact address or personal details like you see on TV. For most home internet connections, IP addresses are dynamic. This means they change periodically, making it difficult to track someone down over time.


However, an IP address, especially in conjunction with other information, can be a steppingstone to doxxing. This is why using a virtual private network like NordVPN can help users keep their browsing private.


The Dark Web Explained for Parents

How Do I Know If I've Been Doxed?

Here are three indicators that you might have been doxed:


Doxxing Indicator: Unwelcome Contact

You begin receiving harassing messages, calls, or emails from people you don't know. These messages might reference personal information that wasn't publicly known before.


Doxxing Indicator: Sudden Online Attention

You notice an abnormal increase in negative attention on your social media profiles or online forums. Much of this comes from accounts you don't follow or have any association with.


Doxxing Indicator: Data Breaches

If you've been involved in a data breach, your personal information might be circulating online by not fault of your own. Be alert for any unusual activity on your financial accounts or online profiles.


What to Do If You've Been Doxed

Being doxed can be a scary and very stressful experience. Here's what you can do if you find yourself in this situation:

  1. Gather Evidence: Take screenshots or download copies of the doxed information. This will be crucial documentation if you need to report the incident or take legal action.

  2. Reporting and Damage Control: Most platforms have mechanisms for reporting abuse or harassment. Report the doxxing to the platform where the information was shared. Try to contain the spread of the information.

  3. Law Enforcement: If you feel threatened or believe your safety is at risk, contact your local law enforcement agency and report the doxxing incident and be sure to play up the harassment and threat angles to make it easier for investigators to make a case.

Conclusion: How to Prevent Yourself from Getting Doxed


Doxxing can be serious threat to online privacy and personal safety. By understanding how it works, the motivations behind it, and the signs to watch out for, you can take steps to protect yourself and your family.


You can't completely eliminate the risk of doxxing to you or your family, but by following these practices, you can make it much harder for someone to gather and expose your private data.


Remember, staying safe online is an ongoing, ever-changing process. By being informed, and vigilant, you can minimize the risk of doxxing and create a safer online environment for yourself.

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Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.

 

Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

 

TheSecureDad.com

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