2015: The year “doxing” will hit home

Local game developer Brianna Wu was a victim of doxing earlier this year. Photo JOANNE RATHE/GLOBE STAFF
Local game developer Brianna Wu was a victim of doxing earlier this year. Photo JOANNE RATHE/GLOBE STAFF

Those of you unfamiliar with hacker culture might need an explanation of “doxing.”

The word refers to the practice of publishing personal information about people without their consent. Usually it’s things like an address and phone number, but it can also be credit card details, medical information, private e-mails—pretty much anything an assailant can get his hands on.

Doxing is not new; the term dates back to 2001 and the hacker group Anonymous. But it can be incredibly offensive. In 2014, several women were doxed by male gamers trying to intimidate them into keeping silent about sexism in computer games.

Companies can be doxed, too. In 2011, Anonymous doxed the technology firm HBGary Federal. In the past few weeks we’ve witnessed the ongoing doxing of Sony.

Everyone from political activists to hackers to government leaders has now learned how effective this attack is. Everyone from common individuals to corporate executives to government leaders now fears this will happen to them. And I believe this will change how we think about computing and the Internet.

Bruce Schneier is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and the CTO of Co3 Systems, Inc.