We’ve heard of nerdy computer programmers cooking up the next multi-billion dollar startup in their college dorm room. Well, not all programmers want to build a tech unicorn or be in the spotlight. One of them, Aubrey Cottle, even fades from the view to take the road less traveled.
Born in 1987, Cottle is a Canadian software engineer, computer security researcher, and hacker. Hacker, you say? Yes, Cottle is the mastermind of several internet-breaking cyber attacks. Let’s travel back to the mid-2000s where it all began.
Becoming a Blackhat Hacker
Cottle hopped on the rollercoaster of online messaging on two anarchic sites–4Chan and Something Awful. These sites had thousands of active users and some select die-hard crew members. Cottle squeezed into the latter, and the group became known as Anonymous (Anon). They kicked off, disrupting organized spaces like chat rooms. 4Chan became aware and cracked down hard on these cyber raids.
But Cottle didn’t stop picking on websites and forums that easily. Anonymous proceeded to buildd 420Chan, an imitator of 4Chan. Cottle set the rules for the site, becoming Anonymous' de facto leader. Now, their small coven could grow into an underworld of full-scale, dark web activities.
Working in the Dark: A Hacking Spree on Individuals and Corporations
Cottle’s anonymous has embarked on several “successful” hacking adventures. One of the group’s earliest targets is Hal Turner, an American political commentator. They frequently stuffed his mobile line or shut down his website. They also uncovered that Turner was an undercover FBI informant.
Afterward, Anons coordinated their next operation on the Church of Scientology. The organization’s local chapter sites experienced denial of service (DoS) attacks. This prevented members from accessing the site. Following their internet mischief, Cottle’s Anon released a text-to-speech video. It said, “We’re anonymous. We’re legions.”
Furthermore, Anon claimed to have attacked PayPal in 2010. This arose after the payment giant stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks. According to BBC, the resulting damages cost PayPal £3.5 million.
Eventually, Anon’s hacking spree came to a temporary halt. This occurred as some members broke out to form an independent “hacktivist” group. Also, Aubrey got raided by the Canadian police and was quite broke after that. Regardless, Anon has resurged with a 40K TikTok following.
The Face Behind the Mask
While Aubrey Cottle is positioned as Anon’s leader, the community is decentralized and claims not to be a group. Anons are acknowledged for making the Guy Fawkes mask known in cyberspace.