CONCORD, NH – A Conway man who reportedly took part in an Anonymous cyber-attack on a Texas oil company pleaded guilty to federal crimes stemming from the attack.
Now, Joseph Earl Thomas Aubut, is being ordered to pay close to $300,000 in restitution for his role in the attacks, according to records filed in the United States District Court in Concord.
Aubut pleaded guilty to one federal charge of conspiracy to transmit information that damages a protected computer. While that charge could have netted Aubut several years in prison, he will instead have to pay restitution to help cover the costs the targeted company laid out to protect itself from the attack, according to court records.
Aubut, and other members of Anonymous, were reportedly trying to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
The name of the company targeted by Aubut and other members of the hacker-collective known as Anonymous, is not revealed in the court records. The company is listed as being based in Houston, Texas. Phillips ’66, based in Houston, is one of the oil companies that partner on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Starting in the summer of 2016, Aubut began recruiting other members of Anonymous to attack the company using distributed denial of service attacks. Such DDoS attacks use malware to launch large volumes of traffic on targeted websites, overwhelming the infrastructure and shutting the site down.
Aubut reportedly used YouTube videos to recruit Anonymous members to stage the attack, and even threatened to dox, or reveal the personal information, of at least one executive at the victim company, according to court records. He used the cyber-de-plum of “Sergeant Anonymous” to post the videos.
One video included the photo of the victim company CEO’s home address and demanded that the CEO contact him or face a “massive” DDoS attack, according to court records.
Aubut also started branching out in trying to dox members of the law enforcement community tasked with dealing with the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, according to court records.
“Also, he said that they would be doxxing (i.e. exposing the personal information of) employees of Victim Company A and police, and spreading their information all over the internet,” according to court records. “On or about November 23, 2016, defendant Joseph Aubut created and posted a YouTube video entitled, ‘Anonymous – message to the Morton county sheriffs department’ wherein he announced that Anonymous had doxxed two people: a law enforcement officer and the governor of North Dakota.”
The victim company hired consultants and invested in cyber-security in order to thwart the attacks, according to court records, incurring costs from Aubut and his Anonymous cohort.
Eventually, the attacker stopped and federal agents tracked Aubut’s videos to unmask him. Aubut’s sentence includes the restitution of a little more than $299,000. Aubut currently lists his employment as a clerk at the Conway Walmart.