How To Prevent Doxxing On Twitter
October 2, 2020
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Trust the experts. You don't want to get doxxed on Twitter. For the unaware, doxxing refers to someone gathering bits and pieces of somebody else's personal information (PII) and posting them online against that person's will. In some cases, the goal is to annoy and harass the person or to lead a mob into harassing them. Doxxing has some dangers associated with it, but there are some ways to protect against this malicious activity.
Doxxing is typically a targeted attack. Somebody specifically tries to target somebody they hate or are jealous of. Someone might have a social media post go viral, or be well known in a particular hobby group or social circle. Perhaps they have opinions that differ from the doxxer's, such as sensitive or political topics in today's increasingly polarized climate. And the damage that can be done is intense.
The most concerning type of attack is called "Swatting", which sometimes happens in the online gaming community. An individual calls the police with a tip about a violent criminal in a hostage situation or something similar that results in the cops bringing special tactical units to the location where they raid the house. The target of this harassment has no idea what's going on, and this misunderstanding could lead to severe consequence. People have died due to swatting and some people have gone to jail for years.
Depending on the level of violence and disruption and harassment, somebody could be forced to change email addresses and phone numbers. If their workplace is known, it may result in job termination due to the volume of disruption and false reporting. Don't dismiss it as a small deal: you should be aware that this can happen.
How Does Doxxing Even Happen?
There are many ways to get personal information online. An individual may not realize how many clues they give away when posting about their life, work, personal data, hobbies and leisure activities and other personal information. Social media profiles that are open to the public are goldmines of data for people to cross-reference and put together a complete . Third-party data collectors also have a wealth of information, which may be added to what the person doxxing already knows.
Databases that get sold around in the darknet make it possible to break into personal accounts and get more knowledge as well. If a person uses the same username and password on all of the sites they use, and one of those accounts gets violated, it's a simple matter to get into the rest of the information. That's one reason why strong, encrypted passwords are so critical – including the use of multi-factor authentication. Using a password manager to have different strong passwords is the best advice.
Why People Commit The Crime of Doxxing Others
People are varied and the motivations behind doxxing comes in many forms. A person might feel they've been attacked, insulted or slighted by their target. They could be seeking revenge for this action. If someone is outspoken on the internet and has out of the box opinions, they could put themselves in the crosshairs of someone with opposing views. Usually, this type of reaction occurs due to hot button issues, rather than run-of-the-mill disagreements. Certainly in today's political climate, disagreements about Trump, Covid19, China, and other hot button issues of the day are in the forefront.
As another example, creators who use Twitch and other live streaming services could end up making a patron upset if they must ban that person for inappropriate behavior. Followers sometimes assume they have a closer personal connection than they actually do. Regardless of the motivations behind doxxing, it can put people in an uncomfortable and potentially deadly situation if people take things too far.
How to Prevent Getting Doxxed
The best way to limit damage from doxxing is to avoid the situation entirely. Here are several ways to stop potential doxxing attempts:
Limit Personal Information Online. People must go to much greater lengths to dox a person that doesn't share personal information online. Social media sites often ask many of invasive questions, which can lead to attackers learning more than enough about their target. By keeping this information offline entirely, doxxers usually move on to someone else. Using a service to remove phone numbers and other personal details from the Internet is also always a good idea and valid personal privacy strategy. You can't dox something that isn't known. This is especially important on Twitter, where passions are constantly inflamed and people get super hyped up about political issues and personal drama.
Use a VPN. A virtual private network offers excellent protection from exposing IP addresses and physical addresses of an individual. IP addresses provide many context clues about who you are and your physical location and if you're worried about doxxing in any way, using one is a valid idea. The VPN takes the user's internet traffic, encrypts it, and sends it through one of the service's servers before heading out to the public internet.
Audit Your Social Media. Over the years, social media profiles fill up with all sorts of data about the person and their past. Take the time to go through social media accounts and delete posts that contain too much personal information. Take the time to go through privacy settings on Amazon, Google, Facebook, and other social media to ensure that they're in the right setting. Even if you didn't post it directly, look for well-intentioned comments that may accidentally share this type of data as well. If necessary, delete or restrict commenting on old posts.
Get Google to Remove Information. If personal information appears in Google search results, anybody can request that it get removed from the most popular search engines. Google makes this a simple process through an online form. Many data brokers put this type of data online, usually for background checks or crime check information. It might not work, but it's always worth a shot.
Avoid Online Quizzes. Some quizzes ask a lot of seemingly random questions, which are actually the answers to common security questions such as information about pets, favorite restaurants, first jobs, or birthdays. Plus, it gives attackers more data to work with. Supplying an email address or name to go along with results makes it even easier to associate information from other data sources. If you must answer, use placeholder info.
Practice Good Cybersecurity Practices. If needed, put anti-virus and malware detection software in place that can stop a doxxer from stealing personally identifying information through malicious applications and downloads. Don't download random files from shady torrent sites. Regularly update your software to avoid the typical security bugs that could lead to being hacked and doxxed. Once an operating system reaches the end of its supported life, switch to a newer version to decreased security vulnerabilities.
Change Passwords Regularly. Data breaches happen every day and sometimes aren't even detected. So it's usually only a matter of time before a username and password combination gets out in the wild. By switching every month and using a password manager to create complex codes, it's harder for a hacker to break into accounts. An individual can consider using two-factor or multi-factor authentication as well, which requires more than just a username/password combination to access the app. Some password managers make this practice extremely simple.
Staying Safe. Doxxing is a serious issue made possible by easy access to personal information online. Staying safe in an online world isn't easy, but following cybersecurity best-practices can help keep you safest.
We hope you enjoyed reading this guide and learned something new! Check out our Learning Center to learn more about online privacy and security or consider subscribing to our Online Privacy Service to remove your phone number, name, and address from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo search results and hundreds of data broker sites.