The Internet was created for humans to share information, and we do that gladly. Especially, with the rise of social media platforms. They allow us to keep our friends fully updated about our lives, regardless of whether they need this or not. While such an activity might seem harmless, it does leave a lot of information about ourselves behind. And if you’re diligent enough to always add geo-tags, one could trace even your location.

While we’re not really trying to stay anonymous online anymore, we still want to be safe. It means, that we don’t want someone to find enough information about us for them to find us in the real life. If someone does that, it could be called doxxing. And today in most cases, we help malefactors to unveil our real identity. Because we do it ourselves.

So, in this article, we want to talk about doxxing. We will figure out what is it, why would someone do that to you, and why even a VPN app can’t fully protect you if you’re not careful enough.

What is doxxing?

“Doxxing” comes from “dropping dox”. Back in the day, hackers used this technique to deanonymize someone to get revenge. However, even today doxxing is a significant threat for those who want to remain completely anonymous online.

Doxxing is a process of collecting and sharing publicly personal or even sensitive information. And even though we are not quite anonymous anymore considering social media and our activity there, malefactors still can use this technique to harm us. For example, an online gamer could dox someone from the game if they had an argument there. Also, doxxing is used now as a cyberbullying technique. Note that to become a victim of this threat, you don’t need to be famous. Malefactors can always have their own motivation to dox you.

How does doxxing harm victims?

It’s hard to realize the potential of this threat because we are willingly sharing a lot of information online. Even the most personal data such as our physical addresses and phone numbers are left somewhere on the internet by ourselves. Yet, there are pieces of information we wouldn’t want others to see. It could be anything from unpopular opinions we’ve told online to some embarrassing visual content. The main purpose of doxxing now is to create a bad image for the victim and make it publicly available.

Therefore, doxxing can not only violate your privacy but harm your reputation, lead to identity theft and other threats, and at the very least — embarrass you. Considering that today our online image is perhaps even more important as the offline one since more people can see it, doxxing can, without doubts, ruin our lives. Several years ago you could just hide behind a VPN extension. And while you can do it now too, it won’t save your real-life persona.

Hackers can take several approaches to collect data. And with the advancement of information collecting tools in the age of big data, this task became easier. Here are the most widely-used approaches to doxxing.

Crawling into your device through a WiFi network

Once a hacker gets access to a WiFi network, he can also easily access all the devices that are connected to it. Home and office networks are usually harder to hack due to security measures and the fact that routers are located on the private territory. But a public WiFi would be in most cases unprotected and easy to get into. So that’s what malefactors do — they hack the public router and then connect to the required device. Once they did it, they can see everything a person is going — from visited websites to passwords and text messages.

Sipping an IP logger

It’s a piece of code that allows hackers to get your IP address. They can pass it to you through malware sent via email or a message.

Studying the metadata

Every file has metadata that tells quite a lot about the user who has created this file. For example, photos you took with your smartphone can tell the model of your gadget, the time when a picture was taken, and even a location if your GPS was enabled when you were creating the snap.

How to protect yourself from doxxing?

The good news is that you can always do something to stay safe.

Use a VPN app

iNinja VPN will keep your IP address hidden. And as you could see by doxxing techniques, it’s crucial to hide your IP. It is the best free VPN for Android, iOS, and desktop computers. You can use a standalone app or a VPN Chrome extension to be always protected with iNinja.

Think before sharing

It’s tempting to share our lives online. But besides broadcasting our activity on social media, we also leave lots of data in other places. For example, you might find yourself filling in unnecessary fields when signing up for some service. Then you provide malefactors with even more information about yourself. Try to be mindful of what you share online. It’s useful to Google yourself from time to time to see how many details one could find about you.

Think before saying

This rule works both in the real-life and online. Always think before writing a post or a caption to a picture. And regardless of how heated the discussion is, try to stay mindful when writing comments, too. Remember, that everything you share online adds to the amount of data about yourself. Even if you leave anonymous comments — they’re rarely really anonymous.

Come up with complex passwords

Today there are a lot of password managers that remember combinations for us while keeping them safe. Use such tools to protect your accounts from hackers. Otherwise, you will ease their job if they want to dox you.
Doxxing is unpleasant at its very least. And considering that we could lose or not get a job because of what an employer found about us online, it’s very important to do everything to not become a victim of malefactors. So be mindful of your actions on the internet and use iNinja VPN for better security.