Definition of Doxware

Doxware, also known as extortionware, is a type of malicious software that combines elements of ransomware and doxxing. When a system is infected, the doxware threatens to publicly release sensitive or personal information unless the victim pays a ransom. The intent is to pressure the victim into complying, leveraging the fear of public exposure and potential reputation damage.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Doxware” is: Docks-ware // dɒks-wɛər

Key Takeaways

  1. Doxware is a type of malware that not only encrypts a victim’s data but also threatens to expose their sensitive information publicly.
  2. Common delivery methods for doxware include phishing emails, malicious websites, and software vulnerabilities, making robust cyber hygiene essential for protection.
  3. In addition to maintaining backups and employing strong security measures, engaging with professional help in case of doxware attacks is crucial to minimize personal and financial damage.

Importance of Doxware

The term “doxware” is important in the context of technology as it refers to a specific type of malicious software that combines the two aspects of ransomware and doxing.

This type of software is particularly harmful as it not only encrypts the victim’s data, rendering it inaccessible, but also threatens to publicly expose sensitive and potentially damaging information, such as personal or corporate secrets.

As a result, doxware poses a significant risk to both individuals and organizations, making it crucial to understand its potential impact while taking necessary precautions and implementing robust cybersecurity measures to prevent such attacks.


Doxware, sometimes referred to as extortionware, is a malicious software designed to steal and hold sensitive information for ransom, typically from individuals or organizations. Its primary purpose is to coerce victims into paying a fee to the attacker in exchange for preventing the public disclosure of the stolen data.

Doxware is a unique subset of ransomware and has gained popularity due to its effectiveness in leveraging the victim’s fear of sensitive information exposure, which may lead to reputational damage, legal ramifications, or loss of personal privacy. Attackers using doxware often gain access to a system through phishing attempts, exploiting security vulnerabilities, or malicious downloads.

Once inside, the software searches for and encrypts sensitive files, such as personal data, confidential company documents, or customer information. It then informs the victim of the breach and issues a ransom demand, often accompanied by a countdown timer or deadline.

The threat to publicly release or sell the data if the ransom isn’t paid significantly increases the stakes, compared to traditional ransomware that merely denies access to the data. This ultimately puts added pressure on victims to comply with the attackers’ demands, making doxware a particularly insidious cyber weapon.

Examples of Doxware

Doxware, also known as extortionware or leakware, is a type of malicious software that threatens to release sensitive or private data from a compromised system, unless the victim pays a ransom. Here are three real-world examples of doxware attacks:

The Dark Overlord Attack (2016): In June 2016, a notorious hacking group called “The Dark Overlord” targeted an American healthcare provider, stealing sensitive patient data like medical records and social security numbers. The group demanded a ransom in exchange for not releasing the stolen data. This incident marked one of the early high-profile uses of doxware as a cyber threat.

The Uber Data Breach (2016): In late 2016, the ride-sharing company Uber experienced a data breach where hackers stole personal information of around 57 million users and 600,000 drivers. The attackers then demanded a $100,000 ransom in exchange for not releasing the stolen data. Uber agreed to pay the ransom to protect its reputation and user trust, making this a prime example of a doxware attack.

The Ashley Madison Hack (2015): In July 2015, the infamous attack on the extramarital dating website Ashley Madison led to the theft of user data for 37 million users. The hackers, known as “The Impact Team,” demanded the site’s immediate shutdown, threatening to release the user data, including real-life identities and personal information. When Ashley Madison failed to comply, the hackers released the data, causing significant embarrassment for the implicated users and serious reputational damage for the company. This attack fits the doxware model as the perpetrators used threats to leak sensitive information to pressure the target into meeting their demands.

Doxware FAQ

What is Doxware?

Doxware, also known as extortionware or leakware, is a type of malicious software that steals sensitive or personal information from a victim’s computer or devices. The attacker then threatens to publicly release the stolen data unless a ransom is paid.

How is Doxware different from Ransomware?

Ransomware typically involves encrypting a victim’s files, making them inaccessible until a ransom is paid. Doxware, on the other hand, involves the theft and potential release of sensitive information. While both types of malware share similarities, Doxware poses a different kind of threat due to the possibility of personal data leakage.

What can I do to protect myself from Doxware?

To protect yourself from Doxware, it’s essential to practice good cybersecurity habits. This includes using strong, unique passwords for your accounts, enabling two-factor authentication when possible, keeping your software and operating systems up-to-date, and being cautious about the links and attachments you click on.

Can I recover my data without paying the ransom?

In some cases, you may be able to recover your data without paying the ransom. This can be done through backups or by using decryption tools created by security researchers. However, there is no guarantee that your data will be recoverable in all situations. It’s important to avoid becoming a victim in the first place by practicing good cybersecurity habits.

What should I do if I become a victim of Doxware?

If you become a victim of Doxware, it’s essential not to panic. Disconnect your computer or device from the internet to prevent further data leakage. Notify the proper authorities, such as law enforcement and your organization’s IT department (if applicable). Consult with cybersecurity professionals on the best course of action, as paying the ransom is not always the most effective or recommended solution.

Related Technology Terms

  • Ransomware
  • Data breach
  • Encryption
  • Identity theft
  • Cyber extortion

Sources for More Information

  • Norton:
  • Fortinet:
  • ResearchGate:
  • Infosecurity Magazine:

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