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Virgil Griffith

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Virgil Griffith

Virgil Griffith, 2007
Born1983 (age 26–27)
Alabama, USA
EducationCognitive science (University of Alabama)

Virgil Griffith (born 1983), also known as Romanpoet, is an American hacker, known for his involvement with a 2003 lawsuit with the Blackboard Inc. company and his creation of the WikiScanner. He has published papers on artificial life and is currently a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology.[1] According to the New York Times, he is the Internet Man of Mystery.[2]



Griffith was born in Alabama in 1983 and graduated from the Alabama School of Math and Science in 2002,[3] 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.[4] Griffith is now a graduate student[5] studying computation and neural systems.[6] He is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute as a visiting researcher.[7]

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 hacker 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.[8] 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[9] and the Economic Espionage Act.[10][11][12] 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.[13]


  • Virgil Griffith, Markus Jakobsson, 2005. "Messin' with Texas: Deriving Mother's Maiden Names Using Public Records", ISBN 978-3-540-26223-7.
  • Virgil Griffith, Larry Yaeger, 2005, MIT Press. "Ideal Free Distribution in Agents with Evolved Neural Architectures. A-Life 10 Conference".
  • Griffith is listed as one of the contributors (as "Virgil G") in The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms, 2006, ISBN 0-7867-1726-2.[14]
  • Two articles in Phishing and Counter-Measures: Understanding the Increasing Problem of Electronic Identity Theft, ISBN 0-471-78245-9.


  1. ^ John Borland (August 14, 2007). "See Who's Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign". Wired (magazine). http://www.wired.com/politics/onlinerights/news/2007/08/wiki_tracker. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  2. ^ Virginia Heffernan. "The Medium - Virgil Griffith, Internet Man of Mystery". http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/magazine/23wwln-medium-t.html. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  3. ^ "Alumnus Virgil Griffith Creates and Releases Wikipedia Scanner". September 3, 2007. http://www.asms.net/events.htm. 
  4. ^ See David Virgil Griffith in "Commencement" (PDF). The University of Alabama. 2007. http://www.ua.edu/commencement/images/commsummer07.pdf. Retrieved 29 August 2007. 
  5. ^ "Scanner Tracks Who's Changing What on Wikipedia". NPR. August 16, 2007. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12823729. 
  6. ^ "CNS Graduate Students". http://cns.caltech.edu/people/gradstudents.html. 
  7. ^ "SFI Profile: Virgil Griffith". Santa Fe Institute. March 27, 2008. http://www.santafe.edu/profiles/?pid=288. 
  8. ^ "Temporary Restraining Order against Hoffman and Griffith". April 14, 2003. http://www.interz0ne.com/events/Blackboard_Restr_Order.pdf. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  9. ^ "Unintended Consequences: Seven Years under the DMCA". Electronic Frontier Foundation. April 2006. http://www.eff.org/IP/DMCA/unintended_consequences.php. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  10. ^ "Restraining Order Letter". April 12, 2003. http://virgil.gr/71.sizes.@BBletter-p2.jpg?size1=XL. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  11. ^ "Blackboard Gets Gag Order Against Smart-Card Hackers". Washington Post. 2003-04-17. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A48214-2003Apr17. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 
  12. ^ Foster, Andrea L (2003-04-16). "At Blackboard's Request, Judge Prevents Students From Discussing Security of Debit-Card System". The Chronicle of Higher Education. http://chronicle.com/free/2003/04/2003041601t.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  13. ^ Jonathan Fildes (August 15, 2007). "Wikipedia 'shows CIA page edits'". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6947532.stm. Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  14. ^ "Mammoth Book of Secret Code Puzzles: Acknowledgements". http://www.elonka.com/mammoth/acknowledgements.html. Retrieved 2007-08-14. 

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