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Doxing (from dox, abbreviation of documents),[1] or doxxing,[2][3] is the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual.[3][4][5][6]

The methods employed to acquire this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites (like Facebook), hacking, and social engineering. It is closely related to internet vigilantism and hacktivism.

Doxing may be carried out for various reasons, including to aid law enforcement, business analysis, extortion, coercion, harassment, online shaming and vigilante justice.[7][8]


"Doxing" is a neologism that has evolved over its brief history. It comes from a spelling alteration of the abbreviation "docs" (for "documents") and refers to "compiling and releasing a dossier of personal information on someone".[9] Essentially, doxing is openly revealing and publicizing records of an individual, which were previously private or difficult to obtain.

The term dox derives from the slang "dropping dox", which according to writer Mat Honan was "an old-school revenge tactic that emerged from hacker culture in 1990s". Hackers operating outside the law in that era used the breach of an opponent's anonymity as a means to expose opponents to harassment or legal repercussions.[9]

As such, doxing often comes with a negative connotation, because it can be a vehicle for revenge via the violation of privacy.[10]

Common techniques[edit]

Hackers and amateur detectives alike can harvest the information from the internet about individuals. There is no particular structure in place for doxing; a hacker may seek out any kind of information related to the target.

A basic Web search can yield results. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Linkedin offer a wealth of private information, because many users have high levels of self-disclosure (i.e. sharing their photos, place of employment, phone number, email address), but low levels of security. It is also possible to extrapolate a person's name and home address from a cell-phone number, through such services as reverse phone lookup.[11]

In addition to these, a hacker may use other methods to harvest information. These include search by domain name and location searching based on an individual’s IP address.[12]

Once people been exposed through doxing, they may be targeted for harassment through methods such as harassment in person, fake signups for mail and pizza deliveries, or through swatting (dispatching armed police to their house through spoofed tips).

It is important to note that a hacker may obtain an individual’s dox without making the information public. A hacker may harvest a victim’s information in order to break into their internet accounts, or to take over their social media accounts. [13]

The victim may also be shown their details as proof that they have been doxed in order to intimidate them. Doxing is therefore a standard tactic of online harassment, and has been used by people associated with the Gamergate movement and anti-vaccine activists.[14][15][16][17]

Notable examples[edit]


Main article: Anonymous (group)

The term "dox" entered mainstream public awareness through media attention attracted by Anonymous, the Internet-based group of hacktivists and pranksters who make frequent use of doxing,[18] as well as related groups like AntiSec and LulzSec. The Washington Post has described the consequences for innocent people incorrectly accused of wrongdoing and doxed as "nightmarish".[19]

In December 2011, Anonymous exposed detailed information of 7,000 members of law enforcement in response to investigations into hacking activities.[4]

In November 2014, Anonymous began releasing the identities of members of the Ku Klux Klan.[20] This was in relation to local Klan members in Ferguson, Missouri, making threats to shoot anyone who provoked them while protesting the shooting of Michael Brown. Anonymous also hijacked the group's Twitter page, and this resulted in veiled threats of violence against members of Anonymous.[21] In November 2015, a major release of information about the KKK was planned. Discredited information was released prematurely and Anonymous denied involvement.[22] On November 5, 2015 (Guy Fawkes Night) Anonymous released an official list of supposed but currently unverified KKK members and sympathizers.[23]

Human flesh search engine[edit]

The Chinese Internet phenomenon of the "Human flesh search engine" shares much in common with doxing. Specifically, it refers to distributed, sometimes deliberately crowdsourced searches for similar kinds of information through use of digital media.[24][25]

Boston Marathon[edit]

Following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, vigilantes on Reddit wrongly identified a number of people as suspects.[26] Notable among misidentified bombing suspects was Sunil Tripathi, a student reported missing before the bombings took place. A body reported to be Sunil's was found in Rhode Island's Providence River on April 25, 2013, as reported by the Rhode Island Health Department. The cause of death was not immediately known, but authorities said they did not suspect foul play.[27] The family later confirmed Tripathi's death was a result of suicide.[28] Reddit general manager Martin later issued an apology for this behavior, criticizing the "online witch hunts and dangerous speculation" that took place on the website.[29]


Journalists with the newspaper The Journal News of Westchester County, New York, were accused of doxing gun owners in the region in a story the paper published in December 2012.[30][31]

Newsweek came under fire when writer Leah McGrath Goodman claimed to have revealed the identity of the anonymous creator of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto. Though the source of her sleuthing was primarily the public record, she was heavily criticized for her doxing by users on Reddit.[10]

Curt Schilling[edit]

In March 2015, former MLB pitcher Curt Schilling used doxing to identify several people responsible for "Twitter troll" posts with obscene, sexually explicit comments about his teenage daughter. One person was suspended from his community college, and another lost a part-time job with the New York Yankees.[32]

Donald Trump[edit]

In July 2015, U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump read out the cell phone number of fellow candidate South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at a campaign rally and encouraged attendees to call it. Media outlets and Graham reported that the number did belong to the senator.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of dox in English". 
  2. ^ "The Problem With "Doxxing" – On The Media". 
  3. ^ a b S-W, C. "What doxxing is, and why it matters". The Economist, UK. 
  4. ^ a b Ryan Goodrich (2 April 2013). "What is Doxing?". Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  5. ^ James Wray and Ulf Stabe (2011-12-19). "The FBI’s warning about doxing was too little too late". Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  6. ^ Zurcher, Anthony. "Duke freshman reveals porn identity". BBC, United Kingdom. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Bright, Peter (2012-03-07). "Doxed: how Sabu was outed by former Anons long before his arrest". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  8. ^ Clark Estes, Adam (2011-07-28). "Did LulzSec Trick Police Into Arresting the Wrong Guy? – Technology". The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  9. ^ a b Honan, Mat (2014-03-06). "What Is Doxing?". Wired. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  10. ^ a b Garber, Megan (2014-03-06). "Doxing: An Etymology". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  11. ^ Ramesh, Srikanth. "What is Doxing and How it is Done?". GoHacking. Retrieved 2014-12-10. 
  12. ^ "Guide to doxing: Tracking identities across the web | Blog | Blechschmidt.Saarland". Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  13. ^ "What Is Doxing?". WIRED (in en-US). Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  14. ^ Hern, Alex. "Gamergate hits new low with attempts to send Swat teams to critics". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July 2015. 
  15. ^ Mulvaney, Nicole. "Recent wave of swatting nationwide fits definition of terrorism, Princeton police chief says". Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  16. ^ Liebl, Lance. "The dangers and ramifications of doxxing and swatting". Gamezone. 
  17. ^ Diresta & Lotan. "How antivaxxers influence legislation". Wired. Conde Nast. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "Anonymous's Operation Hiroshima: Inside the Doxing Coup the Media Ignored (VIDEO)". 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-10-23. 
  19. ^ What you need to know about Anonymous’s big anti-KKK operation
  20. ^ "Hacker-activist group Anonymous seizes KKK Twitter accounts; reveals identities". Fox 2 Now. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "Ferguson KKK Doubles Down By Threatening To Shoot People Wearing Anonymous Guy Fawkes Masks". If Only You News. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  22. ^ Anonymous denies releasing incorrect Ku Klux Klan member information
  23. ^ Anonymous posts Ku Klux Klan list Anonymous’s KKK ‘leak’ targets the elusive online world of white nationalism
  24. ^ Fletcher, Hannah (June 25, 2008). "Human flesh search engines: Chinese vigilantes that hunt victims on the web". The Times. Archived from the original on March 4, 2009. 
  25. ^ Branigan, Tania (March 24, 2010). "How China's internet generation broke the silence". The Guardian. 
  26. ^ "Innocents accused in online manhunt". 3 News NZ. April 22, 2013. 
  27. ^ Buncombe, Andrew. "Family of Sunil Tripathi - missing student wrongly linked to Boston marathon bombing - thank well-wishers for messages of support". The Independent. Archived from the original on 17 January 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2015. The cause of the student's death has still be determined but the medical examiner said no foul play was suspected. 
  28. ^ Nark, Jason. "The Boston bombing's forgotten victim". Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. Akhil spent the most time with Sunny before his suicide, weekends at Brown where he tried to help his youngest child foresee a future. 
  29. ^ Martin, Erik. "Reflections on the Recent Boston Crisis". Retrieved May 3, 2013. 
  30. ^ Alfonso, Fernando (26 December 2012). "Lawyer doxes 50 journalists who doxed gun owners". The Daily Dot. 
  31. ^ Stranahan, Lee (15 January 2013). "Danger: Media Adopting Anonymous's 'Doxing' Tactic". Breitbart. 
  32. ^ Machkovech, Sam (3 March 2015). "Former MLB pitcher, 38 Studios founder doxes his daughter’s online abusers". ArsTechnica. 
  33. ^ Stableford, Dylan (21 July 2015). "Trump gives out Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number". Yahoo Politics.