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What is doxxing and what can you do if you are doxxed

13.05.2024
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Doxxing, a term derived from "dropping documents", has evolved into a digital menace, posing serious risks to online privacy and safety. It involves the malicious exposure of private information, such as addresses, phone numbers, and personal photos, without consent, often leading to harassment and real-world threats. In this comprehensive guide, we explore what doxxing entails, its repercussions, and actionable steps if you find yourself targeted.

What is doxxing?

Doxxing is a deliberate act aimed at divulging an individual's confidential data online. This includes sensitive details like identification numbers, home addresses, and private communications, leaving victims vulnerable to harassment, stalking, and other forms of abuse. The origins of the term trace back to the early days of online forums and hacking culture, where "dox" evolved from "documents" and became synonymous with exposing personal information.

Examples and impact

Gamergate: In 2014, a female game developer faced online harassment and doxxing after her ex-boyfriend shared private messages online. This incident, known as Gamergate, highlighted the vulnerability of women in the gaming industry.

Journalists, activists, and public figures have also fallen victim to doxxing. In South Africa, a journalist's phone number was shared online by a political leader, leading to threats and harassment.

Read on: Which search engines collect data about you?

What to do if you're doxxed

Being doxxed can be a scary experience. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Report the doxxing: Most social media platforms have reporting tools for doxxing. Utilise these features to flag the offending content.
  • Document the evidence: Screenshot or save any evidence of the doxxing, including the date and time.
  • Change your passwords: Update your passwords for all online accounts, especially those containing sensitive information.
  • Increase Privacy Settings: Review your privacy settings on social media and other platforms. Limit who can see your personal information and surf with a VPN service.
  • Consider law enforcement: Depending on the severity of the doxxing and your location, legal action might be an option.

Must Read: What to do if your identity is stolen.

Is doxxing illegal?

The legality of doxxing varies globally, with some jurisdictions imposing fines and jail time for offenders. However, enforcement and awareness of doxxing laws differ, leaving gaps in protection. Understanding local regulations and advocating for stricter measures against doxxing can contribute to enhanced safety online.

Who gets doxxed most?

While anyone can be a target of doxxing, women often face disproportionate risks. Mass online attacks, distribution of intimate media without consent, and sexualised harassment are prevalent issues. Reports indicate that women, especially younger generations, are more likely to experience online violence, highlighting the urgent need for gender-inclusive digital safety measures.

Approach to avoid being doxxed

While perpetrators bear responsibility for violating privacy, individuals can take proactive steps to mitigate doxxing risks:

  • Be Mindful of What You Share Online: Limit the amount of personal information you share publicly on social media and other platforms.
  • Strong Passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts.
  • Privacy Settings: Be familiar with the privacy settings on the platforms you use and adjust them accordingly.

Final thought

Doxxing presents a complex challenge in the digital age, necessitating collective efforts to safeguard online spaces. By understanding the nature of doxxing, advocating for stronger regulations, and practising digital hygiene, individuals can enhance their security and contribute to a safer online environment.

Stay informed, stay vigilant, opt for expert VPN and take proactive measures to protect yourself and others from the perils of doxxing.