What Does Dox Mean: Be Aware
If you’re not familiar with the term, consider yourself lucky. Doxing has become an increasingly serious problem.
What Does “Dox” Mean?
Doxing is the process of gathering someone’s personal information and releasing it to the public. The word is based off the slang term “dropping dox.” This is hacker-speak from the 1990s, and the premise is basically the same — exposing private information to harass, embarrass, or discredit someone.
Why Do People Dox?
Often it’s a simple revenge tactic over a broken heart, poor grade, or botched deal. Sometimes doxing is a function of hacktivism and aimed at exposing dishonesty and promoting the greater good. Law enforcement has even used doxing as a means of locating criminals.
Is Doxing Illegal?
It’s pretty complicated, but technically, doxing itself isn’t against the law. It’s more about the activities surrounding it. If you break the law to gain access to the information, you could be exposed to identity theft, cybercrime, or email hacking charges. If the doxing has a goal, such as extorting money or manipulating someone, the result could be a blackmailing, racketeering, or wire fraud rap.
How Is It Done?
The information that’s doxed was probably displayed publicly in some form or another. Maybe someone posted a racist “Friends Only” message on Facebook and the doxer pulled it out of the shadows for all to see. Perhaps a nude photo was sent to a lover’s phone, only to get posted on the internet after the breakup. The target could have been spotted doing something questionable in a public place and the doxer simply snapped a few photos to upload.
In some cases, hackers gather the information illegally. Social Security and credit card numbers have been stolen and posted online. People often fall for email phishing scams and provide passwords or other sensitive data, allowing the doxer to break into their personal accounts. Entire databases have been infiltrated on occasion.
How Do I Prevent Being Doxed?
The simplest way is to avoid posting anything online, whether it be “friends-only” or entirely private, that you wouldn’t want to share with the world. This includes close friends, because (as some of us know all too well), the closer the friend, the greater the enemy if they turn on you. A more radical and effective step is leaving social media entirely.
If you insist on maintaining an account, set up a fake profile and let friends and family know. Those with multiple accounts should never use the same email address (or password!) to access different ones. Understand and use the privacy settings on all of your accounts.
Audit yourself frequently by using different search engines to run your name (with and without quote marks around it), phone number, and other vital info. You may be surprised at what comes up. Use websites like Pipl and Zabasearch to find out what information is associated with you.
For great examples of the sweeping (and vengeful) results doxing can bring, check out #WarGames, Eko’s interactive series in which you decide the fates of the characters. As Kelly and her underground hackers seek vengeance against the powers that be, you’ll see that doxing can sometimes be the rock in David’s sling that brings down the giant.