(Editor’s Note: I received the following from Rick on Tuesday evening, with a note asking if I might consider posting it on his behalf. Originally planned as a comment, we agreed that it deserves its own space. I have made a couple of minor proofreading edits, but it is Rick’s material in all substance and particulars. -PK)
An Open Letter to Bill Schmalfeldt on the True History of Doxxing
Your recent ham-handed attempt at net sleuthing has bothered me enough that I just have to tell you a few things.
Do you know anything about the history of ‘doxxing?’ It started out on Usenet in the mid ’90s. There had been earlier occasions where someone or other had their identity revealed. There was one particular flame war in alt.culture.computers where folks on both sides were outed, but this bore little resemblance to what we now know as doxxing.
Then one day I saw an article working over an anonymous net vandal. It was from SPUTUM (“Subgenius Police, Usenet Tactical Unit, Mobile” – an activist bunch of SubGs with whom I had worked). They started from one morsel of info about this troll and produced a tour de force – listing his name, school attended with GPA, hobbies, car make, model and plate #, family and relationship data, employer and home phone numbers and addresses – with Mapquest directions! And they did it before Google.
This was the progenitor of the modern dox. I was impressed and – after I cleaned the coffee of my CRT – I set about to emulate them. I’ve always been careful to note that I didn’t invent the art form, but over the 35 or so takedowns I proceeded to write, it’s a simple fact that I’m the one who popularized it and brought it to a wider audience. For a while I was getting nearly a hundred fan emails a day about them.
Simply put – I feel responsible for what it’s become. I feel like YOU are my fault!
My targets were spammers, who were raping the shared resource of Usenet for personal profit, scammers with their chain letters and Nigerian uncles, and assorted miscreants like scientologists trying to use DOS attacks to stifle conversations. These were people attacking the community, and laughing behind the anonymity that they thought was impenetrable. Well, they thought wrong.
In other words, I considered myself one of the GOOD GUYS!
Anonymity itself was never a problem. I fully support the right to protect your identity. In fact, while I know who a few SPUTUM ‘units’ (agents) are, the real life identities of most (including Unit 0) are a complete mystery to me, which is as it should be.
I took pride in my work, and achieved a perfect accuracy record – over 35 doxxes without an error. In cases where there was any doubt whatsoever, I didn’t post. In fact I had decided that if I ever DID make a mistake, I would retire in shame.
So what has become of that ‘art form,’ which I was partly responsible for bringing to public awareness?
You. That’s how far it has fallen.
Let’s set aside your competence for a moment, and discuss your choice of targets. Two in particular really piss me off.
First, there is Patrick Grady. I saw the comment he left on your blog that set you off. It was a mildly negative, gentle suggestion that you might be feeling too sorry for yourself. I’d give it a 0.02 on the 1 – 10 flame scale. Real weak tea.
You went APESHIT. You doxxed him, his wife, his disabled kid and you actually tried to get the guy fired! In the history of overreaction, this one makes the Hall of Fame!
But Monday you outdid even that. You attempted to interrogate (with your insufferable attitude of entitlement) a guy whose only ‘crime’ was reading your tripe without using a proxy! You threatened a man’s family and their jobs because you didn’t like who this guy read and followed.
I would say you should be ashamed of both these cases. But I know you lack the capacity to feel that emotion.
No letter about your ‘doxxing’ activities would be complete without at least mentioning your skill level. In this review, recall that I’m speaking as an expert on the subject.
You suck. You suck so bad that people who just suck at an average level complained about being categorized with you and requested we find a new term just for you. You have no talent for the work and lack the technical skills required to be even mediocre. You are a drone doing Google lookups and drawing unfounded conclusions from ordinary inevitable coincidences. Your misunderstanding of simple logic is exceeded only by your laughable lack of facility with flowcharts.
But instead of recognizing your staggering incompetence and going away, you persist in your empty threats, misguided bluffs and childish insults.
Stop. Just stop. Breathing would be a top-end get, but failing that, stalking is what I’m specifically asking you to stop.
Stop making me ashamed of something I used to be proud of.
Note: it is unfortunate that when Google acquired the Usenet archive from Deja News, much was lost. This includes practically all the spammer takedowns (doxxings) I did. But in case anyone wishes to verify the claims I made, one of the later ones – a ‘Make Money Fast’ chain letter spammer workover (from ’99) survives. It can be found at this link.
It’s not really typical, since I was getting bored with it by then.
Another example of actual net detective work uncovering anonymous spammers is archived
here and has become something of a tutorial on tracking spammers.