Virgil Griffith (born March 6, 1983 in Birmingham), also known as Romanpoet, is a hacker, known for his involvement in a 2003 lawsuit with Blackboard Inc. and his creation of WikiScanner, and contestant on the reality game show King of the Nerds. He has published papers on artificial life and a New York Times biographical profile dubbed him the "Internet Man of Mystery".
Griffith grew up in Tuscaloosa. He graduated from the Alabama School of Math and Science in 2002, and then attended the University of Alabama, studying cognitive science in New College. He was a member of the Mallet Assembly. He transferred to Indiana University in 2004, but returned to graduate cum laude from Alabama in August 2007. Griffith enrolled as a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology, earning a doctoral degree in computation and neural systems. He has also been affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute as a visiting researcher.
Griffith has given talks at the hacker conferences Interz0ne, PhreakNIC, and HOPE. It was at Interz0ne 1 in 2002 that he met Billy Hoffman, a Georgia Tech student, who had discovered a security flaw in the campus magnetic ID card system called "BuzzCard". He and Hoffman proceeded over the next year to learn more about the flaw and attempted to give a talk at Interz0ne2 in April 2003. However, a few hours before the presentation, he and Hoffman were served with a restraining order. Two days later, it was followed by a lawsuit from Blackboard Inc. alleging that they had stolen trade secrets as well as violated both the DMCA and the Economic Espionage Act. The lawsuit was later settled.
On August 14, 2007, Griffith released a new software utility, "WikiScanner," that tracks Wikipedia article edits from unregistered accounts back to their originating IP addresses and identifies the corporations or organizations to which they belong.
Griffith was one of 11 contestants on the TBS reality show King of the Nerds, which premiered on January 17, 2013. Griffith was eliminated in the 6th of the eight episodes, giving him 6th place overall.
Griffith has worked with the Ethereum Foundation which promotes blockchain-based open-source computing. He has conducted post-doctoral research at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology in Singapore. He spoke at a "Pyongyang Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference" in North Korea in April 2019. He was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on December 1, 2019 and charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by evading sanctions against the North Korean government.
- "Blackboard Campus IDs: Security Thru Cease & Desist" (April 14, 2003) SlashDot
- Virgil Griffith. (January 17, 2013) Wikipedia - accessed January 18, 2013
- Thornton, William (December 2, 2019) "Alabama hacker arrested after cryptocurrency talk in North Korea." The Birmingham News
- Virgil Griffith website