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Doxing Continues to Present an Ever-Increasing Cyber Threat

Doxing Continues to Present an Ever-Increasing Cyber Threat
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By Susan Hoffman
Contributor, InCyberDefense

Doxing – researching and posting private identifying information online to deliberately threaten, harass or embarrass someone – has been a troubling problem on the Internet for years. For example, criminals seeking revenge have doxed law enforcement officers using information gained through legal or illegal channels, which has led to physical stalking, cyber stalking, identity theft and extortion.

Similarly, images taken during a 2017 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, were posted online by people at the rally. Social media sleuths tracked down some of the people in those photographs and posted information that identified them. That led to a University of Arkansas faculty member, Kyle Quinn, receiving unpleasant social media messages about an event that Quinn proved he had never attended.

Organizational doxing has also invaded the business and government worlds. In 2014, a hacker group called “Guardians of Peace” targeted Sony corporate executives in a major hack of private and proprietary information that included officials’ salaries, emails and other personal data. The FBI ultimately blamed the hack on North Korea.

What Is the Difference between Freedom of Speech and Doxing?

According to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

When doxers are apprehended, they often claim they have merely exercised their First Amendment right to freedom of speech after posting information such as someone’s address, credit card numbers, or workplace location on social media. But that information can also be used to stalk, harass or physically attack victims or their families, as well as incite others to commit crimes. However, doxing not only violates the terms of service for social media sites; it is also a crime in some states.

In June 2017, U.S. Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA), Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) introduced a new bill, the Online Safety Modernization Act of 2017. This bill is still in Congress. But if it becomes law, doxing, swatting and other similar online behavior will be federal crimes.

Training from Cybersecurity Experts Can Help Others Avoid Doxing

Proper training from cybersecurity professionals is a useful step in protecting people from doxing. Although it is difficult to erase all of someone’s identifying information from the Internet, cybersecurity professionals can reduce the possibility of doxing by:

  • Training fellow employees and executives in how to avoid being doxed
  • Creating an action plan to help doxing victims
  • Staying current with doxing laws
Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.

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