I am Aubrey Cottle a.k.a. Kirtaner. I am the founder of the hacker collective "Anonymous". Yes. Really. Ask me anything.
Hello, /r/IAmA! I am the originator of the Internet Hate Machine that took the world by storm in 2007-2008. This was confirmed the other day by Gregg Housh.
I have "come out of retirement" in service of dealing with the current QAnon menace warping minds around the world.
In the process, I am working closely with forensic researchers and journalists. Most recently, I collaborated with Mother Jones on a piece covering Jim Watkins' past business.
And lastly, for the piece that revealed my identity to the world, you may read this article published in The Atlantic on August 11 earlier this year.
I am also the founder of 420chan, one of the oldest living imageboards still in operation today.
Ask me Anything.
edit: This is probably going to take a while :)
edit 2: 3 hours in, do not worry, I intend to be here for a very, very long time. I know everyone is going to have so many questions.
edit 3: by "very long time" I literally mean days.
edit 4: WE DID IT WE BROUGHT BACK SNACKS https://twitter.com/MidnightSnacks/status/1323171108481306624
edit 5: ok i need to take a nap i will return you really have no idea how much your support means
edit 6: morning folks that was one long hard nap
edit 7: in response to the trolls attempting to brigade - https://twitter.com/Kirtaner/status/1323523066102767622
edit 8: to further clarify, there was also some suspicious timing of vote manipulation beginning in this AMA that kicked off the moment I outright said "Fuck Scientology" and /u/greggh stated that he was the one that took all the heat. I have a gut feeling there is a coordinated smear attempt right now fuelled by that
One more for good measure:
FUCK SCIENTOLOGY, FUCK XENU, FUCK L. RON HUBBARD, FUCK DAVID MISCAVIGE, FUCK PETER THIEL, FUCK JEFF BEZOS, FUCK RUPERT MURDOCH, FUCK STEVE BANNON, FUCK ROBERT MERCER, FUCK MARK ZUCKERBERG, FUCK CHARLES KOCH'S ROTTING CORPSE, FUCK DAVID KOCH, FUCK FALUN GONG, FUCK NAZIS, FUCK TRUMP, FUCK THE DISINFORMATION PUMPING GOVERNMENT MACHINES, AND FUCK QANON
Weak and re-used passwords.
How do you recommend we store passwords? I don't trust password-savers online bc I don't know enough about online security to have an opinion, and my default is to not trust.
Also, what online computer security sources provide safe, reliable recommendations? I'm literate in using a computer, but I don't code, but security is very important to me. Thanks!
Use an offline password vault like 1Password or Keepass. Don't install the browser extensions. Use a solid "master password".
How do you feel about the fact that, predictably, half of Anonymous turned out to be informants?
It's just part of the game, I suppose. Not really much to say here.
Kids, learn some fucking OpSec.
What issues would you like to see the next generation of hacktivists tackle?
Privacy rights, big data, monolithic megacorporations owning everything about you and your life.
Are you secretly mr. Robot?
Tell Sam Esmail to return my calls.
What's up with those apps that give you money to see your grocery list? My friend does it and it seems so sketchy. Like there's gotta be a catch.
You are the product.
Was anonymous really responsible for draining the ink from the Scientology headquarter’s printers by making them print thousands of black pages? Also, fuck Scientology.
What is your opinion on Edward Snowden?
You mentioned weak and reused passwords as most comon problem...
What do you thing about password managers? Are they secure and safe?
Yes. Keepass, 1password, any such password manager. Highly recommended.
If any more proof is needed, and if this counts towards that. You can see pretty clearly that I am the main moderator of /r/Anonymous and Aubrey is indeed OG Anon.
Thanks for looking out for me all these years.
Have you forgiven those who sold you all out to the FBI?
I have... somewhat. Others probably never will. And they have every reason to feel that way.
I couldn't hold onto the past like that if I were to move forward.
What do You do for a living nowadays?
Mostly contract work for software engineering. Though for the last several months my one and only focus has been on QAnon. I more or less abandoned everything I was doing for this.
I'm also prototyping an infosec buttplug.
What's it called?
The Anal Phisher.
Why does Anonymous doesnt seem to appear as much powerful today as they seemed to be 10 years ago ?
Everyone went to jail or went into hiding after "he who shall not be named" ruined it all.
Holy shit this AMA is the coolest thing ever
The feeling is mutual.
Also interested in this question. Care to elaborate?
Are you still considered Anonymous?
Anonymous is for life.
but like, now we all know you who are, so...onymous?
A rather simple question: Are you proud of what Anonymous has become and what it has done up until now?
I couldn't possibly be more proud.
proud of who?
Anomalus. We eat legumes!
You should name your infosec buttplug AnonAnus
ButtSec presents the Anal Phisher.
Hi Aubrey. Maybe this is a bit of a simply question.. But do people underestimate the dangers of social media security?
They absolutely do. People don't understand that even outside of open discussions, metadata sourced from people's "social webs" can paint a fairly vivid picture of their relationships, friendships, general interests. That's just one single thing. Geolocation data, photo metadata, all of these things can be used to map out one's life.
Also, if you aren't using 2FA on every internet account you have, well, you should start.
What’s the most fucked up information you personally found?
Can’t get much more fucked up than that
And I found some again only a few weeks ago, too. As noted in the OP.
Why are you doing this here, instead of your own site or other Anonymous site?
They don't give a fuck. Irony.
How did you get the idea to start anonymous? Did it come naturally?
Yeah, things just kind of "took off" and boy did we ever run with it.
Okay but can you explain buttsec to me?
Butt Security is an information security group dedicated to protecting your sensitive assets from deep penetration.
If the upcoming election is hacked and results are manipulated, how will we know?
I don't think there's an answer to this question, and trust me I wish I had one.
All I can stress to you is this:
Get the fuck out there and vote.
I remember back in 2011 Anonymous was infiltrated by an FBI informant which led to the arrest to some members after the attack on PayPal. One suspects name was redacted by the court and never explained why.
Are you able to shed any more light on this event?
Do you refer to the PayPal 13? If so, they were a minor.
Do you regret anything that anonymous did, and if so, how would you do things differently in hindsight?
Epilepsy Foundation. I don't want to get into that whole debacle.
I would have accepted the wider activist front that Housh pushed forward. He basically protected me for a long time, not discussing me with press, and I thank him for that.
Hi Aubrey, I remember meeting you around 5 years ago while waiting in line for some amiibos and not knowing that you were THE Aubrey Cottle! I was wondering how you felt about the media’s representation of Anonymous over these past several years. And on another note, how are you doing?
Haha! Oh man. Yeah I'm getting this reaction a lot.
I've been up and down. Life. You know. I'm working on PTSD stuff.
I should probably get around to sorting out my Amiibo collection one of these days.
I've always found it hilarious how the media has represented Anonymous as a whole.
Why haven't the Scientologists had their revenge on you yet?
They took it out on me.
What steps do you think can be reasonably taken to stamp out the crap that is Qanon? It's definitely bigger than Watkins, and can be easily coopted
Pulling the mask off the charlatans crafting this out-of-control ARG gone wrong.
Wiping out as much of their presence as possible on social networks and deplatforming them.
What is the largest project Anonymous has taken on?
The big two that come to mind are Project Chanology and Operation #AntiSec
Hollywood is probably gonna call at some point; who would you like to be played by in ‘Anonymous: The Movie’? EDIT: spelling
Jonny Lee Miller. I don't care how old he looks.
Oh my god I am so sorry. Holy shit. That's a heavy question.
If you contact me I can put you in touch with someone who can better help you here.
Is there a Mrs Cottle?
A former Anonymous partner in crime, Spardot.
You’ve got to be shitting me. Are you serious? That’s amazing, I used to chat with you guys a ton in the late 2000s. Thanks for the great memories! I hope you both are happy and healthy!
Hi Aubrey, I’m interested in learning more about cybersecurity, etc., are there any books/resources you can recommend?? Thanks
I've been recommending the following resource to people.
Hey Aubrey, that's one of my free courses!!! Glad to hear you like it!!!
For anyone who is trying to break into security, our free flagship course is https://www.hoppersroppers.org/course.html. It's the best self-paced intro to computing fundamentals on the internet, bar none. We assume no technical knowledge and help you every step of the way. We also have a course on security, with many more being developed.
In a twist of irony, one of the primary inspirations for my site was I wanted a healthy, safe place on the internet for people to step into this field. When I was coming up it was Hackforums, Twitter, and anon IRCs, and I knew there was a better way. I'm in the Navy these days but my site is still dedicated to the memories of Aaron Swartz and Bassel Khartabil.
Can't forget my roots, and I'm honored that Roppers will be a place that the next generation will learn the skills they need to change the world.
You actually produced such a good resource that I was able to put the Insurgency Wiki revamp on the lower priority list.
/u/kirtaner-420chan, thank you for doing this AMA.
I have a copy of the book "Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy - The Many Faces of Anonymous" by Gabriella Coleman. Have you read it, and if so, was there anything in it that you disagreed with, thought the author got wrong, or think needs clarification or other input?
Full disclosure, I haven't read the book yet, but I'll keep any feedback of yours in mind when I do.
If you haven't read it, I could mail you my copy. If it's not garbage I'd be thrilled to get it back with a signature in it, but no pressure whatsoever.
Gabriella Coleman is a wonderful person and has been my confidant for the last several months discussing my life and history.
Her book and wider work is highly recommended.
I would love to do that for you if you like. Contact me later.
Sup brotha, Do you use privacy tokens and if so which ones ?
What keeps you with monero compared to other tech
I don't dabble much in the crypto space due to it's volatile nature and stick to known and solid solutions.
What is your proudest moment?
When I came to terms with my legacy and realized how much of an inspiration we were for the entire InfoSec and activist world.
It took a long time to really process and think about, I was hidden in the open for so long and felt bitter towards Anonymous for a number of years after my "departure" and as time went on, I had become so buried that nobody would believe me when I tried to open up about the past. You can imagine why. I was getting more and more depressed and had I not found people who would actually listen to me and validate what I was claiming, well, I can just say I was fairly close to committing suicide.
This sounds like a bad case of PTSD, I hope you found the help you needed. Just the way you described the last part I can relate to.
I gained the nickname Mr. Robot when working at Ericsson in 2017. This made me start nervously hiding and working in empty meeting rooms. It was getting that bad for me.
Hi Aubrey, As a person with little to no knowledge of computing etc, is there anyway myself and others with no tech background can assist Anonymous?
Yes. Anonymous has all walks of life. The most infamous is, obviously, the hacker type, but just as important are the ones that mobilize online and spread awareness, do research, and collaborate in that manner.
If you have a voice, you can help Anonymous.
What is the end goal of Anonymous?
Right now my only end-goal is bringing the QAnon game to a conclusion.
When did you realize that 4chan culture was becoming real-world dangerous?
The stuff you did in the '00s (4chan invasions) was fun for many but could also be pretty mean; knowing what we know now, do you think that "it's the Internet, not the real world" was really tenable even then?
GamerGate in 2014 was the wake-up call.
And no. Over time many of us realized the barrier between the Internet and the real world was more tenuous than most people insisted.
Hi Aubrey, which country has the most active members of Anonymous?
In the past? The US.
Now? Hard to be sure. It's not like I can pull out a big ol' binder here with a list of membership. :)
Why did you choose the Guy Fawkes mask as a representation?
What was your biggest accomplishment in hacking?
Why did you start this „project”?
Epic Fail Guy.
No comment. As far as "publicly known" things, probably my most fun heist was redirecting Hal Turner's domain names to 420chan.
It... sort of just happened naturally.
A very not serious question:
How do you feel about the movie Hackers?
It’s my favorite movie ever and I can basically go word for word with the script haha.
Dude that movie was my childhood bible.
Halcyon + On + On is my favorite song.
HACK THE PLANET
Can you bring back Snacks?!
Snacks is doing his whole DJ thing now but, hey, "Around Snacks, Never Relax".
Hi! What is the most valuable lesson you've learned in your career so far and how do you think that will apply to your future endeavors? Thanks, Aubrey!
Your only limitation is your willingness to independently learn and experiment.
I am 100% self-taught.
How many cats are lounging around your office at the moment?
Three. We have 6 cats, a dog, and have fostered and socialized feral kittens for years.
If you've adopted a kitten in the Toronto area, there is a chance you have one of our precious furballs. We have adopted out close to 400 kittens via "Toronto Cat Rescue" and "Action Volunteers for Animals".
Can I give you my real name and you wipe out my medical debt? Jk, I love your groups passion.
AW SHUCKS, WHY NOT
I wish. ;)
Did you record any of the Anonymous videos? Like, the ones with the mask and distorted voice?
I was involved with planning this. The first Anonymous video.
Which messenger for phone do you prefer the most, when it comes to security and privacy?
Which VPN do you prefer?
Do you think the world is evolving in a positive way, when it comes to A. I., social media, digital technology, etc.?
Signal, Wire, Matrix.
I think we need to be paying very, very close attention to the work in the A.I. space because we are on the horizon of the information singularity and *that is some terrifying shit*
WOW I can’t believe you’re actually answering questions here. What are your thoughts on Trump and his relationship to Epstein specifically?
Both of them are subhuman trash.
How secure do you think the TOR network is? Also, with the move from BTC to XMR for most of the underground sections of the dark web, what do you think the next logical steps will be for tracking pedos/human traffickers/et al and taking care of those particular scourge?
Thanks for all your hard work, and please continue the fight.
Tor is only one piece of the puzzle and for those who truly need the security it implies, many steps are required for both OpSec and hardening purposes.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket, so to speak.
Who should be the most scared of annon right now?
Jim Watkins, probably.
If you’re comfortable sharing, what would you say your “origin story” is? By that, I mean how did you become interested and start to do what you do? And how did that influence where you are now?
I was an extremely angry 19 year old with nothing but malice towards anything and everything and it took on a life of its own.
I have since learned how to pace myself and what *not* to do.
How would you recommend the average person begin to mobilize against QAnon and communities like them online?
Report all QAnon posts. Ignore all QAnon posters. Mobilize. Spread the word. This is going to take every bit of help that can be mustered. #ButtSec.
QAnon is not Anonymous. Make sure everyone know this.
why do you do what you do?
I did it for the lulz.
How will you engage against a collective who's target audience doesn't care about facts in the first place?
Drown them out.
What change is most important to you right now?
Ending hate movements.
how can ordinary people fight against the government and Big Tech tracking us regularly?
Use privacy-oriented services. Mullvad. uBlock. If they have no data to sell, there's nothing to sustain them.
Pineapple on Pizza? Yay or Nay?
Hawaiian pizza is a gift from Canada to the world. You're welcome.
What is your favourite pass time?
Video games. Been a lifetime enthusiast. Recently I have been using Tetris Effect to center myself. Everyone should play more Tetris.
Aubrey, after a while of Anonymous trending, I saw the internet ask for Anonymous to take out/hack/ go after certain groups on the regular.
Was there one in particular favorite request or one that stood out among all the crazy requests?
Every person that asks me to take down Facebook makes me hang my head in shame.
What’s the point of being anonymous if everyone knows who you are?
That was the beautiful irony of it from the beginning.
Not an InfoSec guy but to me the hard part of trying to explain why we need to care about keeping our stuff secure is finding a context where people can see how it actually impacts their lives.
This is why I loved John Oliver's segment on Government Surveillance, as he boiled it down to "who can see your dick pics." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEVlyP4_11M
Are there any other similar topics you really wish the average Internet user would understand better and/or take more seriously?
General ComSec and OpSec. Data privacy.
Would you go on Joe Rogan?
What’s your favorite color?
I've used this handle online since 1996 when I first signed up for Battle.net playing Diablo.
It is a modification of Wirt.
Does "secure information" even exist, or is it just an illusion?
Security is an illusion. Mitigations are all we have.
What comes next? After Q I mean.
A long shower.
Aubrey, thanks for all the info. I’m of the liberal geriatric population and know little of methodology you guys use. So my question is why can’t 8chan be hacked, corrupted, or stopped as the Mother Jones investigation identifies their hosting illegal sites?
Anything can be hacked. But that leads to hardening.
How to hurt someone? Their wallet. Watkins has a lot of income streams sustaining 8kun and I don't think high-risk adult entertainment payment networks would appreciate having a client who has profiteered from child abuse.
Do you get hacked often?
How are you "dealing with QAnon?" I'm glad there is some effort to deal with these people. I'm not familiar enough to know, but is there one person who posts regularly enough that claims to be Q, and is there any way to find out who that person really is an confirm they are, in fact, a fucking liar?
Deep research, and hard facts.
Why do you refuse to bring back /i/?
I felt it had its time and place and things started getting too "hairy", in so many words. Hosting it was, obviously, an endless shitshow rife with constant server shutdowns.
However, you can consider the QAnon war as a sort of revival.
I hope someone is protecting vote tabulation cyber infrastructure at the state level. To fit with AMA rules I’ll ask: is someone protecting vote tabulation cyber infrastructure at the state level? :)
I'd reckon the answer here is "yes".
How dangerous can the whole QAnon crap become?
Given the US is on the verge of a full-blown civil war and these QAnon 'useful idiots' are on the frontlines?
You mentioned this in another answer: what is 2FA? Why do I need it?
Two-factor authentication. That thing you can turn on that requires a rotating sequence of numbers or a text message to validate your login.
Do you think that the removal of the bourgeoisie will ever happen?
It's good to have dreams!
why do you refuse to let the machine resurface? and why are you taking credit for 4chan/m00t's doing?
"Anonymous" the hacker collective is not "Anonymous" the default 4chan username. Most of those early machinations were a clever smokescreen and 4chan was used as a scapegoat.
Sorry for triggering the Eternal September.
How big a wrestling fan are you. And which Chris Jericho is your favourite Chris Jericho?
Megafan. I have a few old friends/community members that are currently employed as wrestlers in WWE and AEW. Dio Maddin, Mansoor, and Evil Uno are the three most notable.
WCW Jericho, followed up by suit Jericho.
All time favorite video game?
Split between Rez and Quake III Arena.
What do you consider the most common internet security mistake that people make to be?
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