From astronomy to cybersecurity, Lance Cottrell’s career path has not been the most direct one. But it makes sense: While Cottrell was pursuing graduate studies in astrophysics in the early 1990s, he had direct access to the Internet at a time where no one outside the scientific community did. It was this kind of exposure that gave him an awareness of the security issues and concerns pertaining to the use of the Internet.
While working on his doctorate degree, Cottrell began building cryptography, and security and privacy tools for the open source community. A few years later, he noticed how his work was taking off and decided to put his studies in hold. He started Anonymizer, Inc., which initially focused on the consumer space and building privacy tools for individuals.
Over the years, the company noted an increased need for privacy tools from the commercial and government sectors. Anonymizer then decided to refocus its business around providing enterprise class, high-end capabilities. When Abraxas Corporation acquired the company two years ago, Cottrell stayed on in the role of chief scientist.
Talking about some of the challenges he has met in his current position, Cottrell highlighted issues surrounding education and awareness.
“It's a very fast-evolving environment, so trying to keep up with managing the kinds of Internet security that we focus on when everyone is putting stuff up on Facebook and other social networking sites was a big task,” he said. “There are so many more ways in which information is put out there, and people are, more and more, freely providing it without thinking of the repercussions; it's a much more complex environment to work in.”