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 is currently a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. A New York Times bio dubbed him as the Internet Man of Mystery.
Early life and education
Although Griffith was born in Birmingham, he grew up in nearby 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 is now a graduate student studying computation and neural systems. He is 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.
King of the Nerds
Griffith was one of 11 contestants on the TBS reality show King of the Nerds, which premiered on January 17, 2013. Hosted by Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong, both actors from the Revenge of the Nerds films, the series followed the contestants as they completed various tasks in order to win the grand prize of $100,000 and to be "crowned the greatest nerd" of them all. Griffith was eliminated in the 6th of the eight episodes, giving him 6th place overall.
- Virgil Griffith. (January 17, 2013). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed January 18, 2013.
- King of the Nerds. (March 2, 2013). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed March 6, 2013.