Last year, a research study by Safehome showed that 21% of the American population had been victims of doxxing attacks. That's 43 million people! Crazy, right?
Doxxing is one of the most prevalent cybercrimes today. Hackers use it as a tool to punish, harass, intimidate, and shame internet users by exposing their private information. If you post your content on YouTube, you can protect yourself from this cybercrime through several ways, including;
- Changing your passwords often
- Using a VPN
- Limiting the information you share
- Using cyber security software against malicious sites
Doxing ranges from seemingly innocent acts like fake email registration to dangerous crimes like threats and assaults. Knowing how to avoid getting doxxed on YouTube is, thus, crucial. Keep reading for detailed information on how to go about this. If you are already a victim, the article contains a step-by-step guide showing how to handle the situation.
But first, let's have a look at the basics.
What is Doxxing?
The expression 'doxxing' originates from the phrase 'dropping dox,' a revenge ploy applied by hackers after dropping disparaging information on rivals. It also means revealing sensitive information about someone online.
We spend considerable time online, and either knowingly or inadvertently, we disclose lots of our personal information. With our digital footprints, including geotags and photos all over the platforms like YouTube, revealing who you're, cyber-attack cases have escalated tremendously.
For instance, sometimes, we leave a trail of personal information on YouTube. This can help cyber criminals expose our real identity, and we end up being a victim of doxxing on YouTube.
The Ashley Madison Doxxing Incident
One of the most known and constantly cited examples of doxxing is the Ashley Madison case. Hackers breached the popular cheating site in 2015. The hackers ended up doxxing the platform's users after the site's management failed to meet their demands. They released sensitive customer information stolen from the site. The data went back seven years and included credit card details and other payment transactions. This incident caused untold humiliation and embarrassment and damaged private and professional reputations.
Doxxing is not always random. Sometimes, the attackers may have personal vendettas against their victims. The research study conducted by Safehome showed that the targets knew their attackers in one out of every four doxxing attacks.
Why Do People Resort to Doxxing on YouTube?
There are different motivations for doxxing on YouTube:
- Someone may feel slighted, insulted, or attacked by their target and seek revenge.
- An incredibly outspoken person on YouTube with highly controversial opinions could find themselves the object of interest by someone with divergent views. In most cases, such cases arise from red-hot issues rather than typical everyday matters.
How Harmful is Doxxing?
Doxxing can cause lots of damage to personal data such as phone numbers, residential addresses, social security numbers, and emails.
Things get complicated when other information like signed online petitions, financial data, network data, and embarrassing photos see the light of day. A well-known example is the 2013 doxxing attack. Financial information of prominent figures, including Michelle Obama, Jay-Z, and Beyonce, leaked to the public.
Apart from infringing on your privacy, doxxing on YouTube can:
- Cause embarrassment and humiliation
- Damage your professional and personal reputation
- Lead to a possible nightmarish backlash from YouTube users
- Results in identity theft
- A launching pad for future cyber attacks
- Cause relentless death threats and unending harassment
- Result in swatting and prank calls
Based on the severity of the doxxing and the resultant disruption and threats (of violence), it may lead the victim to:
- Change their phone number(s)
- Change their email addresses
- Move from their home
- Loss of employment (if their workplace is known) because of increased false reports and disruption
How to Avoid Being Doxxed on YouTube
The following is some of the best advice you can get to stop doxxing in its tracks:
Audit Your YouTube Account
Some damage control and house cleaning is the first step you should take. You've probably shared tons of information on social media about yourself. An excellent place to start would be to go through your YouTube channel and take down any videos that may contain personal information.
Sometimes, you might accidentally share personal information. For example, if you document snippets of your life, you may accidentally show your audience your street address while filming a video for your channel. Auditing your account and its content thoroughly will help you catch such slip-ups. Take time and examine your YouTube account (and other social media accounts). As you do so, delete all information you deem too personal or revealing.
Practice Proper Cyber Security Habits
Embrace malware detection and anti-virus software to shield your information from malicious apps. Better yet, keep updating your software regularly to eliminate security bugs that could open avenues for hackers and doxxing. When your operating systems expire, update to newer versions to eliminate security vulnerabilities.
Change Passwords Regularly
Data breaches are sometimes inevitable, meaning your usernames and passwords can get out. The secret is changing your passwords often and getting a password manager to develop sophisticated codes.
To be on the safe side, settle for multi-factor or two-factor authentication, which calls for more than a password/username combo to get access.
Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will provide you with exceptional protection. It'll keep you from exposing your physical address and IP address. The VPN usually takes your internet traffic, encrypts it, and passes it through one of its servers before it hits the public internet. This way, you can browse virtually from just about any other location in the world without exposing your actual address.
Limit Personal Information Online
Doxxing someone who hardly puts out personal information is not easy, even for the smartest hackers. Cyber attackers learn considerable information from their targets themselves.
Oversharing the details of your life leaves a breadcrumb for cyber hackers to follow. Don't be too keen to showcase your personal details, such as your address. You should also be wary of social media platforms that ask for invasive information, such as your bank details or credit card information.
Avoid Internet Quizzes
Many online quizzes will ask you seemingly innocent and random questions. These are answers to popular security questions, and they give cybercriminals ammunition for their activities. When you supply an email/name along with your answer, the criminals can effortlessly relate the information with other data sources.
Steps to Take if You've been Doxxed on YouTube
If you know or suspect you've been a victim of doxxing on YouTube, acting fast is recommended. Immediate action will stem the spread of your private information. These steps can come in handy:
Document the Whole Thing
If possible, take some screenshots of the activity if you need evidence when reporting to relevant authorities. You can also download the pages that expose your details while ensuring that the URL and date in question are visible. Such evidence comes in handy in assisting law enforcement agencies and for your reference.
Report the Doxxing to YouTube
Immediately you detect doxxing activity, report to YouTube. YouTube has strict terms of service agreements that prohibit doxxing. After reporting, they'll investigate, and any guilty party will have their account suspended.
Report to Law Enforcement
Doxxing is a cybercrime worldwide. The typical response to doxxing is outright panic and a feeling of vulnerability, which is perfectly understandable. Amid this whirlwind of emotions and fear, ensure that you inform the relevant law enforcement agencies dealing with cybercrimes in your region. Laws for protection against cybercrime may differ depending on your location, so be sure to look up the information you need.
Lock Down Your YouTube Account
After being a doxxing victim, it pays to create fresh, stronger passwords for your YouTube account. In addition, get added protection via multi-factor authentication when accessing your account. Finally, don't forget to fortify the privacy settings in all your social accounts.
Change Your Phone Number
Based on the kind of information that you revealed, changing your number may be the best course of action. The same also goes for usernames and additional private identification details.
Staying Safe Online
Doxxing on YouTube has become a serious issue, particularly for users who don't follow proper online practices. Although staying safe in today's cutting-edge world of technology is not easy, you can stay ahead of doxxers through several safe practices.
Some crucial tips to avoid doxxing include using strong passwords, a VPN, and never sharing private details online. If you fall prey to a doxxing incident, take the steps outlined above to stay safe.