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Understand the doxing

11/23/2017

Doxing. The term would be an abbreviated form of the word "documents" (in English). It appeared in the year 90s. At that time, we took revenge for a collision in a forum by making information public to the interlocutor. Today, the doxing is a tactics of harassment used by groups mediatized as Anonymous or Gamergate.

There is no need to be a genius of the computing to devote to this practice. A simple Google search gives you access to a multitude of methods and tutorials on the subject. If you are lazy and do not jib contributing, there are key solutions for some euros.

A quantitative study of the doxing

The search has already bent on numerous occasions over the subject. The interest of the new study by Peter Snyder, Chris Kanich, Periwinkle Doerfler and Damon McCoy is the  quantitative dimension where the previous ones were qualitative. Such an approach allows to measure better the phenomenon for a finer understanding susceptible to give rise to adapted answers.

Therefore, the work is based on the analysis of more than 1.7 million comments on sites such as Pastebin.com, 4chan.org, and 8ch.net which are so many places where we practice frequently the doxing. The study extends over a duration of more or less thirteen weeks displayed during two periods: the summer, 2016 and the winter, 2017. As a result: 0.3 % of these publications are of the doxing (totally 5,530 cases)

Typology of the victims

Contrary to what we could think, the great majority of the victims are people (to 82.2%). They are living in the United States. The average age is 21.7 years; the youngest is 10, the oldest is 74. Hackers constitutes the first category. They include hackers since each person has at least two accounts or forums connected to the hacking or  cybercrime. The second category of the most affected victim gathers "gamers" and Internet users belonging to the communities of the video game or the streaming. The third category is the one celebrities as the candidates for the presidential elections, the movie stars and the leaders in big companies.

The address, the phone number, the information on the family, the name, the e-mail address and the IP are a part of the most revealed data. On the contrary, the police record, the Social Security number or the credit card are affected least by the doxing.

To summarize, the doxing seems to be a marginal phenomenon of which the figures  have nothing to do with those of the account diversion. It affects people exposed to this type of practice because of their closeness with the circles of the hacking or their fame.

Between competition and justice

This analysis is confirmed by the examination of the motives put forward to justify the doxing. In fact, the perpetrators of these attacks claim all the competitive spirit. It means demonstrating the hackers’ talents or revealing the vulnerability of an allegedly untouchable hacker. Then the arguments of the justice and the vengeance arisen further to a conflict or an inappropriate behavior on Web. Finally, the doxing can be politically based, for example, "unanonymize" members of Klu Klux Klan, people suspected of pedo-pronography or working for companies mistreating animals.

As such, the misadventure arriving at Hal Turner is a test case. This White American supremacist tossed in the radio program, the telephone numbers of people having saturated funny calls. The activists took revenge by revealing the personal data. These allowed to learn that the man had a police record!

However, the doxing can miss its target since during the Amanda Todd affair, the name of a Canadian teenager who committed suicide, victim of harassment. Members of Anonymous had posted on-line the confidential information of a 32-year-old man. Wrongly, after the police investigation.


The role and the answer of the social networks

Besides, two social networks are particularly connected to the doxing: Facebook et Google +. It can be explained by the propensity of their users to post much personal information and their capacity to identify the social relationships of their members (on the contrary to a Twitter where the only nature of the link is the "follow-up).

Logical consequence of this association: the victims of doxing tend to limit the access to their accounts (just make them "invisible") to limit the damage. By closing them, the victims receive the double punishment because they are forced to be socially more isolated.

To answer this concern, these platforms set up measures to limit the harassment. And it works! By modifying the algorithm of the current events to expose socionautes to more positive contents and less than "traps with clicks" (Clickbait), Facebook has limited the possibilities of harassment or access to the excessive contents. That is why the victims of doxing were less inclined "to privatize" their accounts. The researchers made the same report on Instagram when this social network did the same by filtering the hostile comments in September, 2016.

Finally, the researchers hope that their work can serve concretely to fight against the doxing. They would wish, among others, the creation of a public service which would notify the Internet user a warning when the data are "doxed". They would also like that their research can be of use to law enforcement, in particular within the framework of the SWAT-ing. It is about a continuation of the doxing which consists of sending the police at the victim while there are not any incident, all to intimidate it. Thanks to this quantitative study, the security guards would arrange information suited to estimate these malicious acts and answer in an adequate way.

Article written by Thierry Randretsa

 

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