The internet world has its fair share of thrills and scares. Some are make-believe, and others are very real indeed. Doxing is the latest thing sweeping the hacker side of the internet. Short for Document Tracing, it simply means the backtracking of legally available information for illegal means. For example, let’s say you have the name of a person you interacted with in the bank. If you use this little bit of information to track them down on Facebook and connect with them, it’s not a problem. However, if you use that same information and use some of your hacking skills to find out their private credit history, it is definitely illegal.
There is a very thin line that divides doxing from regular old stalking over the internet. However, this thin line may very well be the difference between you remaining safe and your identity being wrongfully used by someone to commit crimes. To avoid any such situation, you need to know everything there is to understand about doxing, how it is done, and how you can protect yourself from it. Let’s start with the basics:
What Does It Mean to Get Doxed?
If we put it in the simplest of terms, doxing involves unknown parties accessing your private information. They may use some very minor or negligible information like your email id to dig up something very personal like your home loan repayment records. With that in mind, it is easy to see how and why doxing can potentially be a major threat to people.
But before you go worrying about this new online menace, let us tell you that most doxing targets are usually celebrities and other social luminaries. The reason for this is simple. The personal information of a celebrity is of considerably more value to people than any information about you and me. While a hacker might target you to get to your bank accounts, a doxer will most likely target someone who is well known enough to maintain a reputation and would not like to see that compromised.
If a person like that was armed will personal information about you, blackmail is one of the easiest steps forward for them. Although doxing might not be as prevalent as hacking and the chances of you getting doxed are considerably slim, there is still no harm in establishing safeguards against any such attempt.
What to Do If I Get Doxed?
Unfortunately, doxing is something that exists in the grey area of internet security. This means that if a person takes any info on you and somehow manages to gather more private information like the number of mortgage payments you have left, there is little that the authorities can do.
While doxing of celebrities has been gaining momentum, so has a mainstream awareness of this practice. Internet security groups and government agencies are exploring avenues to shut down doxers and make the free sharing of publicly relevant data safe again. After all, an internet where you could not even share your email address with someone for fear of doxing would be ridiculous.
In the near future, it is possible that specialized anti-doxing software and security systems get developed. However, that day is not today and for the moment, we have to rely on our wits to stay out of harm’s way.
Another reason to be wary of doxing is that once your personal information is exposed, anyone with a basic knowledge of hacking could attempt to breach your online security. With the intelligence gathered about you, someone could potentially launch a cyber-attack and make you lose millions. Even if that does not happen, you may face serious social backlash when some sensitive information about you is revealed.
Prevention is always better than cure and to prevent any doxing attempts you cannot simply rely on software. You have to be a smart internet user and not reveal any personal information about yourself. For instance, if you are asked a security question like what is your pet’s name, you put in the real name of your pet. All a potential doxer has to do is to go to your Facebook page and find out the name of your pet. It is easier than you think. Always stay smart and vigilant and never reveal any personal information to anyone online.
How to Be Safe From Doxing
Despite the fact that doxing as a widespread phenomenon is relatively new, the online security community is quickly catching on to in. While effective tools are devised to block such attempts, a valid precautionary policy has been issued to the most privacy-conscious people amongst us. Here are some ways you can avoid doxing and remain safe online:
- Implement two-factor verification on your accounts
- Use strong passwords that are not easily guessed
- Get a good VPN
- Don’t let anyone you don’t know see your social media profiles
While these solutions are easy to implement, you must understand that their effectiveness in keeping you from becoming a victim is ultimately dependent on how vigilant you are when online. If you freely share even your phone number on social media, then you could easily become a target for doxing and then further hacking.
Doxing Cannot Be Completely Avoided
We understand that it is not always possible for people to hide their personal information. If you are an executive in a big company, your contact information will be easily available online. Another example is you are the principal of a school and parents are encouraged to stay in touch with you to better monitor their child’s growth.
In both these cases, you will have to give out your personal info to the public. However, you can still retain a certain degree of safety by compartmentalizing your work from your personal life. Use different cards for business and leisure spending. Have your office IT people check any suspicious mail before you act upon its info. Remember, it is up to you to stay safe and the best way to do that is to be smart and at par with the latest in the cyber world.