When it comes to streaming, keeping your personal information safe is a must. Anyone who has been in the streaming ecosystem within the last 5 years will no doubt be aware of the dangers that come with obsessive or destructive fan bases.
There have been numerous cases of streamers being ‘swatted’ 1 or ‘doxxed’ 2 online. This, as you can probably imagine, are very serious situations and can be extremely distressing for the target of these attacks.
Streamer Alliestrasza was ‘Swatted’ just a few months ago.
Well I never thought I would get SWATTED… but alas, here we are.— Alliestrasza (@Alliestrasza) February 10, 2022
Everything is okay, though. Just a little shaken up with nerves. The officers were great and handled everything very well.
They obviously had to take the threat seriously so our whole family was cuffed outside.
One of the most common causes of these attacks are that the creators' information is publicly available online. At a certain point, it may be difficult to conceal certain information, especially as you grow in popularity, but we are not infallible creatures; even little details such as birthdates, childhood hometowns or even just the names of you/your family etc. can lead to a wide-range of information being discoverable online.
It is a commonly-voiced suggestion in the streamer sphere to mask your identity; this can include things from registering a ‘Business’ PayPal account, or not using your real name. While this certainly does help the situation, there are a number of other details that often go unnoticed.
For example, how many of you reading this have used the same username for more than, say, 5 years? Are you the same person you were 5 years ago? Most likely not - but whatever you said online 5 years ago will still exist and be publicly-accessible by those who know how to find it.
Now, think about all the services/websites you signed up to in those same 5 years - how many of them have your current username, but also have your real name associated to them?
Cleaning up those old remnants of your online history can make a huge difference in protecting you.
Down the rabbit hole
Let’s show you a quick example, using a (fake) user named SuperCoolStreamer123.
Now, SuperCoolStreamer123 is pretty sure they’re impossible to find online - they only go by their username, they don’t show their face online and they’ve never mentioned their location. But, what SuperCoolStreamer123 didn’t realise is that they signed up to a chat app a few years ago that has a public link for every user’s profile. MaliciousUser321 wants to find out who SuperCoolStreamer123 is, and decides to do some googling - and they find a link on Google’s Search Results for this chat app! They click the link, and there they see SuperCoolStreamer123’s full name.
On SuperCoolStreamer123’s Twitch page, they list what they studied at University - being careful not to mention which University. But unfortunately, MaliciousUser321 has their full name. A quick search for their full name and the subject, and there is a link to an article that the University has on their website talking about SuperCoolStreamer123 - and it has a picture of them on it!
Now obviously in this example, a quick Google search was all that was needed, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the information is buried deep within the internet or hidden amongst some not-so-wholesome websites.
Where do I start looking?
Finding these leftover titbits of information can be challenging, especially if you’ve used multiple usernames/aliases over the years. In fact, it’s something that affects everyone, including corporations/companies with an online presence, too.
So, where do you start? Well, the best place to start is, of course, Google.
Just googling your usernames can give you a massive amount of information to work with and help you narrow down those unexpected locations your details might be visible. Often, you’ll have to go through multiple pages on Google’s search results - not just the first few.
Then, it’s a case of seeing if you can log into any of those websites/services to remove your data/delete your accounts. This isn’t always possible, however - you may need to contact the website in question to request the removal of those details.
What if I don’t want to do this myself? Can I get someone else to do it?
Yes, you can. This falls under the bracket of OSINT or ‘Open-Source Intelligence Gathering’. In short, this is a thorough search of the public-facing web to discover as much information about an individual (or client) as possible.
A true representation of what someone else might find would be considered a ‘Black Box’ investigation (which is just a fancy term for ‘no prior knowledge/information’).