'The ability to escape and live how I used to just doesn't exist for me anymore,' our client that was a target of doxing and revenge porn told us
The words above from our client that was a target of doxing rings true for anyone that has been harassed, blackmailed, humiliated, intimidated, exposed, defamed, trolled, controlled and had their intimate images, videos and personal information shared online.
How being a target of doxing can make you feel
Being a target of doxing can feel uncontrollable and that there isn't an escape if there is a crime or civil wrongdoing of malicious intent committed against you online and when your image, name, address and phone number is all out there on the web, your private life can feel over, as you feel violated and humiliated.
What if I actively submit information online?
Even if you rely on work through your website or social media account, where you have submitted some information and images and a phone number, as you would if you are a sex worker, say, or perform in pornography films, it doesn't mean that doxing or any type of internet harassment and breach of privacy invasions are acceptable and it doesn't make your case less valid. Our internet law firm were actually the first internet law firm in the UK to serve an injunction to an anonymous user on Instagram for our client that relied on social media for his business in a private hearing. As harassment online escalates daily, and it feels like nobody can help you with this, thoughts can lead to catastrophic thinking, where such great anxiety can actually prevent you from doing anything because you feel that you are in such an uncontrollable crisis where a remedy doesn't seem likely.
Doxing is an invasion of privacy
Doxing (the word evolved from 'dropping documents') is the unauthorised publishing of hacked person's personal information including names, home, work and family addresses, phone numbers, emails, financial details, images, videos, profiles and any other identifying information. It's a revenge or blackmail tactic that involves breaching someone's personal data, publishing it on the internet and attracting unsolicited harassment. Perpetrators of hacking and doxing can get your information from social media, old websites, blogs, forums, gaming channels; anywhere that you may have visited or joined online that holds your data. You may be surprised at how much information the internet holds about you (as well as third party data collectors), and it is a goldmine of data for hackers and blackmail sextortion perpetrators.
Doxing is not a crime by the name itself but the hacking, breach of privacy, revenge porn, harassment, defamation and misuse of information, malicious communications and all other acts associated with it are crimes or civil wrongdoings.
The malicious harm caused by doxing
What motivates people to commit doxing is really down to their own psychological make up or backstory and whether they want to intimidate, punish or humiliate, the outcome on their targets could be fatal. The impact of any type of harassment online cannot be underestimated. It's effects can severely change doxing victims psychologically, physically and socially.
A target of doxing - her story
Here, we will tell you Zoe's doxing story and why she came to our internet law firm for doxing legal support.
Zoe had been alerted to some naked images and videos of herself online on a website that encouraged non-consensual pornographic images and videos. The only person that had seen these images prior to them being on the internet had been her ex girlfriend but she hadn't shared them electronically with her or anyone. The intimate images and videos were in her file in her email account and her ex girlfriend vouched that she didn't know anything about why they were online, since she didn't have access to them and so it was presumed that Zoe's email account had been hacked by a malicious stranger who perhaps hadn't liked her post in the transgender community forum that she was actively involved in, since it was a timely event.
Non consensual image / revenge porn economy
As is the pernicious nature of the internet, the naked images and videos were spreading like wildfire and being linked to main porn hubs as well as more malicious websites that encourage other users to find more information about the person in the images and then expose them by doxing online. There are websites where users upload images where people are clothed also, with lewd remarks rating people on attractiveness, as well as encouraging other hackers to hunt them down, expose personal information about them and hopefully access compromising pictures on their email accounts to upload to the website. These vile acts and tasks of encouragement become challenges for serious doxing hackers.
Zoe wrote to some of the revenge porn / non consensual image and video websites and was surprised to get defamatory replies from the administrators that greatly exacerbated her stress, telling her that she shouldn't have taken the images and videos in the first place and it was her own fault; she deserved humiliation. The fact is that these revenge porn websites are owned and managed by people that implore this revenge porn behaviour and have probably built the non consensual image website from scratch and contributed to the popularity of the online society of violating non-consensual image / revenge porn upload website economies.
Doxing and revenge porn
The inevitable dread that Zoe had about anyone else seeing the images and videos online actually occurred because a colleague saw the naked image and video, who then shared it with someone else and then someone else shared it and soon, the naked images and videos were in the hands of her family, social media friend list and employers, which was intensely humiliating for her. So much so, that she couldn't face going in to work and despite her employer reaching out to her to try and support her, the thought of all the colleagues that had seen her naked was just too much for her to bear. Facing her colleagues was daunting and she stayed home, getting more depressed and feeling more violated by the day, as personal messages of hate and sexually violent threats were being delivered to her inbox and mobile phone, from people that she didn't know. Unfortunately, Zoe lost her job eventually, due to the amount of time that she had taken of and because of the refusal of support from her employers. It only made her feel even more isolated but there was nothing that she could do. She was changing her usernames and email addresses regularly but she felt hunted down, as though there were many hackers waiting for her; working on her; intent to harass and humiliate her and for what reason? Only they knew.
How doxing affected our client
Zoe was on the brink of suicide before she found us and was finding it hard to keep any type of employment because of the doxing. The escalating webpages hadn't stopped there because she had been subjected to aggressive sexual text messages and emails from anonymous users that sent her naked images, asking her for more sexy images or calling her defamatory names and sending her hate speech threats. She had changed her phone number and email accounts several times, she told us but she was always found by online trolls. She had grown her hair long and changed the colour, felt worthless and that she was losing her identity, working in a mundane job, just constantly feeling violently harassed and low.
By now, two years later, Zoe's image and video was featured on 500 different areas on the internet. Just two pieces of personal intimate content were clipped and shared so many times that they appeared half a million times on the internet. Every day, it felt like a new horrendous experience, as new anonymous people were accessing her image and sharing them elsewhere on the internet. Lewd, negative and hateful comments were being posted alongside the images. The web pages were refreshing over and over and her images and videos along with personal details were being shared and posted. She had paid an online clean up company in a desperate attempt but they only removed a couple of images that were then appearing again elsewhere, in no time. She didn't feel safe at home but she didn't feel safe leaving, either. She had given up her career aspirations. She started to abuse her health and was binge-eating and drinking heavily. She wanted to escape. She was feeling desperate, as the sexual violence and online pornography harassment was escalating.
How is Zoe today?
After finding our internet law firm, Zoe is building her life again and is focusing on her mental and physical health and feels optimistic. She is having therapy and is trying to relax and clear her mind of the trauma of the doxing and harassment that she was subjected to and has just enrolled at college to restart her life. Since we were able to remove the images and videos and all links as well as monitoring the internet, she feels much better on a daily basis. It will take time to recover from living a certain way for so long and feeling destroyed.
If you have been a target of doxing, revenge porn or any type of internet harassment, the anxiety and isolation that you will no doubt be experiencing, is intense but do not suffer any more because Cohen Davis are here to support everyone that has online harassment involving pornography committed against them.
How to protect your private information on the internet and avoid doxing as much as possible:
- One small piece of data can lead to hackers finding so much information about you. If you use the same username, for instance, a search online could reveal where you have visited and what you are interested in. A hacker can build up a profile about you by searching your username.
- If you have changed your identity since you have been using the internet, check back on those old sites that you used, if you can remember. They most likely will be holding that information about you. Deadnaming can feel invalidating and disrespectful but hackers don't care about whether they hurt anyone's feelings, so if you can contact old online website platforms that you frequented and ask them to delete your data, it may protect you.
- You may want to try and remember what old websites you used to use, even if you haven't changed your name or identity. Those websites may not be around so much now and gone out of fashion but old websites that you used to be into can still be accessed online and all of your data will be on there. Go to your account or click Forgotten Password and delete from there and double check by emailing the website administrator to delete your information.
- Limit private information that you give online. Doxing perpetrators will move on to someone else if they cannot find too much information about you.
- Create multiple email addresses and usernames for all accounts online, with strong encrypted different passwords for each (and change these passwords regularly).
- Use multi-factor (also known as 2FA) identity authorisation tools, where possible. It is a method of confirming user identification using two different evidence factors making one combination, like something they have (passport or bankcard, say) with something they know (password or pin number).
- Protect your IP address: Use a trusted proxy or virtual private network, allowing anonymous internet use or using public Wi-Fi hotspots will mask your location.
- Turn Geolocations off and do not tick the ALLOW button when a website wants to know your location. If it doesn't allow you access to the website then find another similar website.
- Install anti-virus and malware protection, keep them updated and run scans regularly.
- If you purchase a web domain, make sure you purchase a privacy protection at the time of purchase too, because all of your information will go on an easily accessible WHOIS domain site, where your name, address, email and phone number can be up for hacker's taking.
- Increase privacy on social media network settings in the profile sections and only have social media friends that you know and can verify. Social media profiles can fill up with all sorts of information from your past and share historic images. Make sure that any of this old data isn't too revealing. Look at the images and data and remove any that may show personal information or where you live. It is worth remembering that hackers dig deep for information. Be extra protective when uploading images and information.
- Avoid online surveys and quizzes that will retrieve so much information from you and may give hackers information to your passwords, like Mother's maiden name, pet name, favourite places, etc. Signing up for anything that requests your email address is giving hackers easy information that they can associate with other forms of data about you where you have used the same email address.
- Be aware about sexting. Many applications that promise that the image or video will disappear after 3 seconds are now being challenged by third party applications that can retain the image or video. Our internet law firm has dealt with many sexting cases where the supposed image was meant to have vanished automatically.
Contact our internet lawyers, who are experienced in doxing, blackmail sextortion, revenge porn, removing intimate images and videos, harassment, breach of privacy invasions and internet clean ups and so much more, no matter your line of work. We seek justice for our dear clients, we find perpetrators and we make them pay for doxing and breach of privacy invasions.
Having your personal information online is a horrendous invasion of privacy and having your image attached and shared, without your consent, as well is sexual violence. Even if your case may seem more complex and you may have submitted sexual images or videos to the internet happily as part of your work, you did not want your personal information attached, or your old personal information (deadnaming) to be advertised or to be harassed online in general. We want to support you with these offences. Do not despair. It's quite likely that we as internet lawyers who deal in pornography, have dealt with a case similar to yours. Call us today: 0800-612-7211.