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Safety, 911, Swatting and Doxing are all part of Crime Prevention Month Education and Detection.

Unfortunately, the technical barrier to doxxing or swatting a person is low. A doxxer can acquire information on their target through a variety of legitimate public sources. Or, more nefariously, through  social engineering techniques.

Swatting often just requires the name, phone number and address of the intended target. Swatters often use cheap or freely available anonymising technology to disguise their identity, or to “spoof” the phone number of their target, when making their false report — a move that makes their crime difficult to police.

Swatting is the act of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police and 911 response team to another person’s address, based on the false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage-taking or other alleged incident. Swatting has been associated with online harassment campaigns, and episodes range from small events to large incidents, from a single fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta to the deployment of bomb squads, heavily-armed SWAT units and other police units and the concurrent evacuations of schools and businesses.

Swatting has been described as terrorism due to its potential to cause disruption, waste the time of emergency services, divert attention from real emergencies and possibly cause a risk of injuries and psychological harm to the persons targeted and for the first responders.

Swatting is linked to the action of doxxing, which is obtaining and broadcasting, often via the Internet, the address and details of an individual with an intent to harass or endanger them. Making false reports to emergency services is punishable by prison sentences in the U.S. and is a crime in many other countries.

You’ve been “doxxed”. Your private information has been posted, perhaps by an anonymous imageboard user, who’s implored others to “do with it as you will”. Doxxing – named for “documents” or “docs” – is the act of release of someone’s personal and/or identifiable information without their consent. This can include things like their full legal name, social security numbers, home or work addresses and contact information.

There’s no set format for a “dox”; the doxxer simply publishes whatever information they’ve managed to turn up in their searches. Sometimes this even includes the names and details of their target’s family or close friends. Anonymous image boards are a continuous froth of simultaneously earnest and ironic hostility. What the anonymous denizens of these boards consider polite discourse is indistinguishable from open attack. This works in their own subculture, but when exported elsewhere, their hostility and antipathy for personal identity creates problems. This clash of anonymous imageboard culture with the parts of social media where people live and work created the divide underlying GamerGate, making it difficult for outsiders to understand.

As a tactic of harassment, doxxing serves two purposes: it intimidates the people targeted by invading and disrupting their expectations of privacy; and it provides an avenue for the perpetuation of that person’s harassment by distributing information as a resource for future harassers to use.

Don’t re-use passwords for multiple services

This can be difficult, as a new password for every service you use will be taxing to even the best of memories. The best, most complex passwords will be challenging to guess or to brute-force, but also difficult to remember.

Here’s where technology can make life easier; a password manager app, like LastPassKeePass or 1Password can help you set unique, complex passwords for each service you use, and let you secure them behind a single, more memorable password.

Terry Penney