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What Is Doxxing? How It Works and How To Prevent It

Doxxing refers to the malicious act of gathering and revealing a person‘s private or identifying information without their consent. It is an insidious form of online harassment that can enable further abuse like identity theft, stalking, and swatting. In this comprehensive guide, we will explain everything you need to know about doxxing and how to safeguard yourself against it.

What is Doxxing Exactly?

Doxxing involves researching and broadcasting private details about an individual without their permission. The word "dox" is derived from "documents" or "docs", referring to compiling documents and records on someone.

Person searching records

The goal is to identify and expose the victim by revealing information like:

  • Full legal name
  • Home address
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Employment details
  • Photographs
  • Financial information
  • Details about family members

With enough identifying information, doxxers can enable the harassment of victims in real life. Dangerous consequences include:

  • Identity theft or credit card fraud
  • Delivery of unwanted goods and services
  • Signing up the victim to unwanted mailing lists
  • Swatting – deceiving law enforcement into sending SWAT teams
  • Stalking and physical threats

By broadcasting private details without consent, doxxers strip away a victim‘s anonymity and privacy. This can leave the person feeling violated and unsafe.

According to a 2021 study by researchers at Michigan State University, over 25% of American internet users suffered some form of doxxing. But many feel helpless in preventing or responding to the attacks. This article will provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of doxxing and equip you with preventative strategies.

What Motivates Doxxers?

Doxxers have a wide range of motivations:

  • Revenge – Doxxing an ex-partner, colleague, school bully, or someone else they have a personal grudge against.
  • Ideological – Doxxing people they disagree with politically or ideologically to incite harassment by like-minded individuals.
  • Vigilantism – Doxxing criminal offenders or bad actors when they feel justice wasn‘t sufficiently served legally.
  • Trolling – Internet trolls doxxing for fun and entertainment value or to get reactions.
  • Profit – Criminals doxxing people as part of identity theft or extortion schemes.
Motivation Percentage
Revenge 37%
Ideological 22%
Vigilantism 17%
Trolling 15%
Profit 9%

Percentage of doxxing cases by motivation according to 2022 NortonLifeLock research.

Regardless of their reasons, doxxing violates personal privacy and facilitates abuse. Next we‘ll explore exactly how doxxers operate.

How Does the Doxxing Process Work?

Doxxing relies on leveraging data that we wittingly or unwittingly put out online in some form. With time and effort, a surprising amount of information can be unearthed:

  • Public records – Property records, marriage licenses, birth certificates, court documents
  • Social media – Photos, friends/followers, posts, and metadata like location tags
  • Usernames – Can be linked across platforms to reveal connections
  • Data brokers – Legally compile detailed profiles on people and sell to marketers
  • People search sites – Aggregate public data to be searched easily
  • Phishing – Fake emails or messages tricking you into giving personal info

Skilled doxxers employ OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) techniques to piece together profiles. Additionally, hacking approaches like social engineering, phishing, and account breaches can reveal hidden information.

With enough data points, a dossier is assembled and then leaked en masse on forums, websites, or message boards. Some sites like 4chan have dedicated boards for doxxing releases.

Real-Life Examples of Doxxing Attacks

To truly grasp the potential damage of doxxing, here are some real cases:

  • Gamergate controversy – In 2014, several women game developers and journalists were aggressively doxxed and sent death threats by online mobs. Even actor Felicia Day was doxxed simply for expressing her views on #GamerGate.

  • Ashley Madison breach – In 2015 hackers released 37 million user records from the Ashley Madison extramarital affair site, leading to public shaming and even reports of suicides.

  • Swatting incidents – Swatting refers to deceiving law enforcement into dispatching SWAT teams to an innocent person‘s house. In 2017, serial swatter Tyler Barriss doxxed and swatted a Kansas man over a $1.50 Call of Duty bet which lead to the man‘s death.

  • Revenge porn – To humiliate their victims, abusers will sometimes dox their intimate photos and details online as devastating revenge porn.

These examples demonstrate how quickly doxxing can spiral out of control and enable serious abuse. Next we‘ll explore how you can minimize your risks.

How to Avoid Being Doxxed

While no one can be completely immune from doxxing, implementing good privacy practices can help make you a far more difficult target.

Be Careful What You Share Online

Avoid oversharing personal details online which could be used against you later. Always think carefully before posting any information publicly.

Use Different Usernames and Passwords

Having the same credentials on multiple sites allows you to be easily tracked and hacked. Use long unique passwords on all accounts and change them regularly.

Review All Privacy Settings

Comb through settings on all your social media, forums, e-commerce accounts etc. Lock down sharing information only with people you trust.

Use a Trusted VPN

A VPN like Surfshark or NordVPN masks your IP address and anonymizes your internet traffic. This hides details like your location.

Monitor Your Online Footprint

Routinely Google yourself to check what details can be easily found. Use reverse image search to see where your photos surface publicly.

Remove Personal Data from Data Brokers

Legally request data brokers remove the profile they have on you. Or use firms like DeleteMe to handle removal requests.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Add a second layer of authentication like biometrics or security keys to prevent account hacks. Avoid SMS-based two-factor as it can be intercepted by sophisticated hackers.

What To Do If You Are Doxxed

Being doxxed is stressful but you can take action to mitigate damages and regain control.

Document Everything

Collect evidence by taking screenshots of where your info is posted along with usernames. Note all website details and dates/times.

Report Doxxing to Websites and Authorities

Follow site policies to report doxxing content and request its removal. If you‘re being threatened or stalked, file a report with your local police.

Damage Control

  • Alert your bank and credit bureaus about potential fraud. Freeze credit reports if required.
  • Change passwords and enable two-factor authentication everywhere.
  • Consider services like IDShield to monitor for misuse of your identity.

Don‘t Panic

It‘s understandable to feel violated and afraid after being doxxed. But statistically, most doxxing aims only to intimidate and rarely escalates into actual offline harm if you take appropriate precautions.

Doxxing Prevention Tips By Group

Different demographics face increased risks for being doxxed. Here is guidance tailored for some high-risk groups:


  • Be careful about sharing college/university names publicly or in usernames.
  • When posting photos, disable geotagging which reveals locations.
  • Google yourself occasionally to see what details come up.
  • If harassed, escalate the issue to college authorities.


  • Avoid using real names or profile photos of yourself at protests or on cause websites.
  • Create an anonymous secure email just for activist work.
  • Use encrypted messaging apps like Signal rather than SMS.
  • Contact the EFF or ACLU if doxxed for your activism work.


  • Publish contentious stories anonymously or under pseudonyms where possible.
  • Remove author metadata from documents before sharing them.
  • Avoid directly engaging with hostile sources publicly.
  • Have an emergency response plan if you are doxxed while investigating sensitive topics.


  • Educate employees on privacy best practices and monitor for compliance.
  • Anonymize employee data used internally as much as possible.
  • Limit how much personal employee info is shared externally on websites or press releases.
  • Have a crisis management plan in case executives get doxxed.

Doxxing Prevention FAQs

Let‘s address some frequently asked questions around guarding against doxxing:

Is it illegal to dox someone on Reddit or other sites?

Doxxing violates most site policies and can get accounts blocked. While not explicitly illegal, doxxing can enable criminal stalking, harassment, or threats depending on the situation.

What‘s the easiest way someone can get doxxed?

Oversharing personal info publicly online is the most common way people get doxxed accidentally. Evensmall clues like usernames containing real names can unravel someone‘s identity.

Does using a VPN fully protect you from doxxing?

VPNs help mask IP addresses to make tracing harder. But doxxers also utilize other methods, so a VPN should be one part of a layered privacy approach.

Can doxxing be completely prevented?

There‘s no foolproof way to prevent doxxing since it leverages publicly available information. However, minimizing your digital footprint and safeguarding data can make you a far harder target.

What are the chances the average person could get doxxed?

Disturbingly high. With enough effort, a motivated doxxer can piece together a detailed profile on most people from traces they leave online. It‘s crucial to be proactive about privacy.

The Bottom Line

Doxxing involves maliciously compiling and releasing people‘s identifying details without consent in order to incite harassment. It has evolved into a common abuse tactic online and can have serious consequences if escalated.

While not illegal per se, doxxing can enable further offenses like stalking, identity theft, and swatting. It aims to intimidate victims by destroying their online anonymity.

You can minimize your risks by being extremely cautious about sharing any personal information publicly online. Implement preventative measures like using strong unique passwords, securing social media accounts, and monitoring your digital footprint.

However, retaining your privacy in the internet age requires constant vigilance against unintentionally leaving data traces that could be utilized by bad actors. Doxxing will likely continue to pose a threat as more of our lives move online. But through awareness and proactive precautions, its impact can be reduced.


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.