There’s now an academic study on the dark art of doxing

NYU Tandon's Periwinkle Doerfler and Damon McCoy dig in to one of cyberbullying's central tactics.

Insight into the impact of doxing. (Photo by Flickr user Thomas Heylen, used under a Creative Commons license)

Plenty of people want to get famous online, but most people don’t.

Researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the University of Illinois at Chicago released a report Tuesday on the very modern-day phenomenon of doxing, or revealing someone’s personal information online.

The report, “Fifteen Minutes of Unwanted Fame,” analyzed 1.7 million text files, mostly on the sites pastebin.com, 4chan.org and 8ch.net, where nearly all doxing is done.

Read the study

Given that it is an academic paper, it can be pretty dry reading, but here are some of the highlights.

1. The word “doxing” might have originated from the word “documents.”
  • The origin of the term “dox” is unclear, but one common explanation for the term is as shortened form of the word “documents,” as in “drop documents.” The term first came into use in the 1990s, to describe humiliating or intimidating someone by linking online personas to sensitive personal information.
2. There are services that charge as little as $5 to dox someone.
  • The commercialization of doxing has made it an even easier form of harassment to conduct online. While attackers originally had to gather information about their targets themselves, recent dox-for-hire services have made the process cheap and easy for abusers. Dox-for-hire services compile information, such as the victim’s name, address, email and social networking accounts, for as low as $5.
3. Doxing victims are frequently hackers, gamers or celebrities.
  • One recurring category of dox targets we noticed were hackers, or individuals who maintained accounts on websites, forums and other web communities associated with hacking and cybercrime. A second recurring category of dox targets were gamers, or web users who maintained multiple accounts on video game enthusiast and streaming communities. A third recurring category of dox-target we observed were celebrities, or people who are well known independent of doxing.
4. Doxing victims frequently delete their accounts or go private as a result.
  • Across all social networks, we observe that users change their account status quickly after their information is include in a dox file. 90.6% observed “more-private” status changes occurred within the first seven days of the dox file being shared online; 35.8% of these “more-private” account changes happen within 24 hours of the account appearing in a dox file.
Companies: NYU Tandon School of Engineering
Series: Brooklyn

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