What is 'Doxing'

Doxing is the intentional act of publishing someone’s private, personal information or identity (on the internet) without expressly receiving that person’s permission. Although doxing is normally attributed to cyber-hacking, journalists led by a cause or trying to make a broader point may also take part in doxing.

BREAKING DOWN 'Doxing'

Doxing, also spelled "doxxing", is short for document (docs) dropping. It is a method by which hackers obtain quasi-identifiers or personally identifiable information of individuals or businesses. The data obtained is then broadcast over the internet without the victim’s permission.

As the popularity of social media forums gain traction and big data obtained from the forums by companies are shared across sectors and industries, cyber hackers can steal important information about an entity and sell it in underground marketplaces or distribute it online, or doxing.

How Doxing Works

A doxxer can acquire information about people from multiple sources. One source is through underground marketplaces. As data becomes an increasingly valuable commodity on digital platforms, cyber hackers and identity thieves are inventing new ways to access the data. The data stolen can then be sold through underground websites that operate with private and anonymized networks like Tor Network. A doxxer who buys the data from such marketplaces can then publicize the information on the internet. Data can also be obtained through legitimate sources online.

If a doxxer can get quasi-identifiers such as postal code, race, sex, date of birth, etc. and effectively piece these identifiers together, she or he will be able to personally identify the individual bearing the identifiers. This could also be seen as a de-anonymizing technique whereby pieces of information from separate anonymized data sets are matched together to identify an entity.

Internet users have to be mindful of what sites they visit and ensure the sites have rigorous security checks in place before providing important data. Although online businesses strive to anonymize the profiles of their users using stringent security techniques, the ability of hackers and doxxers to de-anonymize data is proof that all online activities leave a trail.

Examples of Doxing

Doxing involves the purposeful act of seeking out a person’s identity and revealing it to the public without the individual’s consent. The practice is usually carried out for malicious intent, for fun, or in a vigilante effort to reveal the identity of an infamous person. Ashley Madison, an online dating site for people interested in extramarital affairs, was the target of a doxing act in 2015. The anonymous group responsible for hacking the users’ data questioned the morals of the online company and requested that the website be shut down. When this request was not honored by Ashley Madison, the hacking group made public over 30 million Ashley Madison users’ data including their email addresses, names, credit card details, mailing addresses, phone numbers and sexual preferences. Malicious spectators who got hold of the publicly available information went on a blackmailing spree to extort the victims of money in return for not sharing the information any further.

Michael Brutsch had his identity doxed in 2012 when a Gawker writer exposed him online. Brutsch was a popular Reddit user known for making inappropriate posts and comments on issues of child pornography and incest. The public revelation of his identity cost him his job but the public perception to his exposure was two-fold. While some applauded the bravery of the Gawker writer, others scrutinized the vigilante doxing act and found it meddling on anonymity.

RELATED TERMS
  1. De-Anonymization

    De-anonymization is a reverse data mining technique that re-identifies ...
  2. Data Breach

    A data breach is an unauthorized access and retrieval of sensitive ...
  3. Identity Theft

    Identity theft is the crime of obtaining the personal or financial ...
  4. Anonymous (Internet Group)

    Anonymous is most widely known for committing cyber-attacks to ...
  5. SelfKey (KEY)

    SelfKey offers easy decentralized identity management to make ...
  6. Verge XVG (Cryptocurrency)

    Verge (XVG) cryptocurrency relies on TOR and I2P technology to ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    5 Overlooked Places Where Your Identity Can Be Stolen

    Identity theft affects many Americans, and are often caught off guard. These are 5 places thieves target.
  2. Tech

    Whose Fault Is Identity Theft?

    You've been so careful, so how did they get your information? Who is really to blame for your identity being stolen?
  3. Personal Finance

    The New Ways Thieves Are Stealing Your Identity

    How are thieves now using new technology, like social media and old mobile phones, to steal identities?
  4. Tech

    Microsoft Will Use Blockchain To Build New Digital Identity

    Microsoft plans to use blockchain to build a new digital identity that gives users control over their personal details.
  5. Tech

    5 Ways to Avoid Identity Fraud

    Identity theft was the number one consumer complaint in 2014. Here are some ways you can protect yourself.
  6. Tech

    Millennials at Higher Risk of Identity Theft

    Tech savvy Millenials are particularly prone to becoming a victim of identify theft.
  7. Tech

    Tips For Keeping Your Financial Data Safe Online

    Find out how to protect your personal information from phishers, scammers and thieves.
  8. Tech

    Avoid Becoming An Identity Thief's Next Victim

    Use these 7 techniques to keep yourself under the radar and out of the way of identity thieves.
  9. Tech

    Equifax Breach: How to Protect Your Data

    Cybersecurity concerns are the new norm. Here's what to do if your data has been breached.
  10. Insights

    Are You A Target For Identity Thieves?

    The Americans at highest risk for identity theft and identity fraud aren't the ones you most expect. See if you're on the high-risk list.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Why would someone change their Social Security number?

    Learn the reasons a person might choose to change his Social Security number, including identity theft and abuse, and discover ... Read Answer >>
  2. What are the top Social Security scams targeted at the elderly?

    Prevent Social Security scams by learning to recognize the most common types of scams that target senior citizens receiving ... Read Answer >>
  3. How can I find out which stocks pay dividends?

    To learn which stocks pay dividends, there are a number of resources, including apps and trading platforms, that can help ... Read Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Leverage

    Leverage results from using borrowed capital as a source of funding when investing to expand the firm's asset base and generate ...
  2. Financial Risk

    Financial risk is the possibility that shareholders will lose money when investing in a company if its cash flow fails to ...
  3. Enterprise Value (EV)

    Enterprise Value (EV) is a measure of a company's total value, often used as a more comprehensive alternative to equity market ...
  4. Relative Strength Index - RSI

    Relative Strength Indicator (RSI) is a technical momentum indicator that compares the magnitude of recent gains to recent ...
  5. Dividend

    A dividend is a distribution of a portion of a company's earnings, decided by the board of directors, to a class of its shareholders.
  6. Inventory Turnover

    Inventory turnover is a ratio showing how many times a company has sold and replaces inventory over a period.
Trading Center