Aubrey Cottle

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Aubrey Cottle
Aubrey Cottle, photographed from the shoulders up, standing in front of a brick wall
Born (1987-04-06) April 6, 1987 (age 35)
NationalityCanada
Other namesKirtaner
Occupation(s)Hacker, computer security researcher, and software engineer
Years active2008–2011, 2020–present
Known forEarly member of Anonymous
Websitephisher.io Edit this at Wikidata

Aubrey Cottle (born (1987-04-06)April 6, 1987),[1] also known as Kirtaner, is a Canadian hacker, computer security researcher, software engineer and an early member of the hacktivist group Anonymous.[2] Cottle was involved with Anonymous during the late 2000s and in its resurgence beginning in 2020, in which the group attempted to combat the far-right conspiracy movement QAnon.[3]

Anonymous[edit]

Early years[edit]

Cottle was an active user of 4chan and Something Awful in the mid-2000s, where he and others began collectively referring to themselves as "Anonymous", due to the 4chan moniker of the same name. During this time Anonymous began trolling and "raiding" other websites, online games and chat rooms, as well as black-hat hacking: targeting Hal Turner, The Church of Scientology and others.[4] 4chan ultimately curtailed raiding from their platform, resulting in Cottle and others migrating to Cottle's website 420chan, an imageboard with a focus drug culture, LGBT discussion, and raiding.[1]

According to Cottle, upon being photographed by Scientologists during the 2008 Project Chanology rally, he began fearing for his family's safety. According to Cottle, he tried unsuccessfully to "shut down" Anonymous after this incident, and so attempted to generate bad press for the group so that they would lose public support.[4] During a 2021 interview with Vice News, he claimed responsibility for the group's 2008 attack on the Epilepsy Foundation's website,[4] where Anonymous members flooded the forum with flashing animations to trigger seizures in those with photosensitive or pattern-sensitive epilepsy.[5] Cottle later expressed remorse for the attack.[4]

Cottle said in a 2021 interview that he retired for "a number of years", and was not continuously involved with Anonymous since its creation.[4] During this period Cottle turned to software engineering contract work.[3]

2020 re-emergence[edit]

Beginning with a series of arrests in 2009–2011, Anonymous' notoriety began to fade, and by 2018 the group had largely left the public spotlight.[6][7] However, in 2020 Anonymous re-emerged following the George Floyd protests, performing the June 2020 BlueLeaks breach in which they publicly released a large amount of hacked U.S. law enforcement data.[8][9] Reuters named Cottle as one of those responsible for the group's presence on Twitter.[10]

In August 2020, Cottle identified himself as a founder of Anonymous in an article by Dale Beran in The Atlantic.[1] Cottle said in a November 2020 Reddit AMA that "right now my only end-goal is bringing the QAnon game to a conclusion".[3] The previous month, he had been one of the anti-QAnon researchers who exposed connections between QAnon figure Jim Watkins and domain names suggesting connections to child pornography.[11]

In November 2020, Cottle was responsible for exploiting security flaws in Parler, a social networking service popular with the right wing, to spoof posts to appear as though they were from a verified account belonging to Ron Watkins. In the posts, Watkins appeared to expose his father, Jim Watkins, as "Q", the anonymous poster at the center of the QAnon conspiracy theory.[12] Around this time, Cottle exposed Parler user data by exploiting a flaw in a third-party vendor, which granted him access to Parler's email newsletter database.[13] In January 2021, Cottle exposed email logs from a company called Is It Wet Yet, which belongs to Jim Watkins[10][14] and serves as the parent company for 8chan, an imageboard described as the "home" of QAnon.[14][15] These leaked logs allowed researchers to analyze Watkins's connections with other figures involved with the QAnon conspiracy movement.[14] In August 2021, Cottle and open source intelligence analyst Libby Shaw were among the researchers who exposed the developer behind QAlerts, an app used by QAnon adherents to read posts from the anonymous "Q".[16]

In February 2022, Aubrey Cottle claimed responsibility for a hack on Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo, which was hosting a fundraiser for the Canada convoy protest. The hack released donor's names, personal information, and donation amounts for all the campaigns on the website.[17][18]

Sakura Samurai[edit]

In 2020, Cottle joined the white hat hacking group Sakura Samurai, and was involved in the January 2021 disclosure of a United Nations breach, which exposed more than 100,000 private employee records.[19] In August 2021, Cottle and other Sakura Samurai members helped to validate a vulnerability with Ford's website, exposing company records and enabling malicious account takeovers.[20] Cottle left Sakura Samurai later that month,[21] saying he wished to avoid "entanglements" pertaining to his other activities.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Beran, Dale (August 11, 2020). "The Return of Anonymous". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on August 11, 2020. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  2. ^ Harwell, Drew; Allam, Hannah; Merrill, Jeremy B.; Timberg, Craig (September 25, 2021). "Fallout begins for far-right trolls who trusted Epik to keep their identities secret". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Archived from the original on September 25, 2021. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Langlois, Shawn (November 2, 2020). "Founder of hacker group Anonymous reveals his ultimate 'end-game'". MarketWatch. Archived from the original on November 2, 2020. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Cottle, Aubrey (September 21, 2021). ""I Left Anonymous. Now I'm Back"" (Interview). Vice – via YouTube.
  5. ^ Poulsen, Kevin (March 28, 2008). "Hackers Assault Epilepsy Patients via Computer". Wired. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  6. ^ Gilbert, David (November 2, 2016). "Is Anonymous over?". Vice. Vice Media. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  7. ^ Griffin, Andrew (August 7, 2018). "Anonymous promises to uncover the truth behind 'QAnon' conspiracy theory". The Independent. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  8. ^ Griffin, Andrew (June 1, 2020). "'Anonymous' is back and is supporting the Black Lives Matter protests". The Independent.
  9. ^ Molloy, David; Tidy, Joe (June 1, 2020). "The return of the Anonymous hacker collective". BBC News. Archived from the original on June 1, 2020.
  10. ^ a b Menn, Joseph (March 25, 2021). "New wave of 'hacktivism' adds twist to cybersecurity woes". Reuters. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  11. ^ Vicens, AJ; Breland, Ali (October 29, 2020). "QAnon Is Supposed to Be All About Protecting Kids. Its Primary Enabler Appears to Have Hosted Child Porn Domains". Mother Jones. Retrieved October 31, 2020.
  12. ^ Harwell, Drew; Lerman, Rachel (November 23, 2020). "Conservatives grumbling about censorship say they're flocking to Parler. They told us so on Twitter". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 26, 2021. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Rothschild, Mike (December 11, 2020). "Why 8kun's former admin is at war with right-wing star Dan Bongino". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  14. ^ a b c Bevensee, Emmi; Aliapoulios, Max (January 7, 2021). "Exposed Email Logs Show 8kun Owner in Contact With QAnon Influencers and Enthusiasts". bellingcat. Archived from the original on January 7, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  15. ^ Rothschild, Mike (December 11, 2020). "Why 8kun's former admin is at war with right-wing star Dan Bongino". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  16. ^ Goforth, Claire (September 16, 2021). "How an Oath Keeper brought QAnon to the masses". The Daily Dot. Archived from the original on September 16, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  17. ^ "GiveSendGo Hacker Faces Death Threats for Leaking 'Freedom Convoy' Donor Info". www.vice.com. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  18. ^ Hopper, Tristin (February 17, 2022). "FIRST READING: The ugly witch hunt for Freedom Convoy donors". National Post. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  19. ^ Sharma, Ax (January 11, 2021). "United Nations data breach exposed over 100k UNEP staff records". BleepingComputer. Archived from the original on January 11, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  20. ^ Howard, Phoebe Wall (August 17, 2021). "Friendly hackers save Ford from potential leak of employee, customer data". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on August 17, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  21. ^ Aubrey Cottle [@ThatNotoriousK] (August 22, 2021). "I'm going to take a moment to let everyone know, I am as of today, taking a multi-month sabbatical from Sakura Samurai. I'm not gone forever... I'd started work with the gang, before other, more urgent matters that brought me out here had been resolved to my liking" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  22. ^ Aubrey Cottle [@ThatNotoriousK] (August 23, 2021). "I'm stepping away so there will be no entanglements or potential issues as it pertains to my other... work. Duty calls. I have business I need to finish. I'll be home sooner or later. ;)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.