Celebrities, politicians lose privacy in doxxing attack

Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, FBI director Robert Mueller, Beyonce, Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck – they are just a few of the targets who have had what is purported to be personal information published online.

Varying degrees of information – including alleged home addresses, social security numbers, mortgage documents, account reports and credit card info – was posted, according to TMZ, who first broke the story.

The Los Angeles Police Department has launched an investigation into the case, while the US Justice Department said that the FBI was investigating the publication of Mueller's Social Security number, address and credit report.

"LAPD detectives are investigating the recent disclosure of Chief Beck's personal information,” the department said in a statement to the Huffington Post. “Apparently, this is not necessarily a hacking incident. It is called 'doxxing.' This has happened to the Chief on two other occasions prior in a similar nature post-Occupy LA", the statment continued. "We are not at liberty to discuss the others mentioned in the web post. There will be no further comments or press conference on this matter."

Doxxing, celeb watchers were quick to point out, is not to be confused with hacking.

“Many outlets immediately misreported what happened as a hacking incident,” Yahoo! Blogger Jeremy Blacklow said. “But in this case, no one was hacked – rather, this has been a case of doxxing – or, posting documents online that are usually hidden behind a firewall of an institution such as a bank's or lawyer's office.”

Dave Aitel, the CEO of security firm Immunity and former NSA security advisor, explained the difference: "Hacking would involve getting onto someone's computer and accessing their personal data, while doxxing is looking at someone's online persona and looking at someone's data," he told Yahoo! "It's the stripping away of their privacy. Doxxing using causes embarrassment, but not damage."

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