Virgil Griffith

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Virgil Griffith
Virgil Griffith, 2017
Born (1983-03-06) March 6, 1983 (age 36)
Birmingham, Alabama, United States
Other namesRomanpoet
Alma materCalifornia Institute of Technology
OccupationInternet and software researcher
Known forWikiScanner, Tor2web
TelevisionKing of the Nerds

Virgil Griffith (born 1983), also known as Romanpoet,[1] is an American programmer, known for being the creator of WikiScanner. He has published papers on artificial life[2] and integrated information theory.[3] In developing WikiScanner, Griffith described his mission as "to create minor public-relations disasters for companies and organizations I dislike."[1]

Early life[edit]

Griffith was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in nearby Tuscaloosa.[1] He graduated from the Alabama School of Math and Science in 2002,[4] and then attended the University of Alabama, studying cognitive science. He transferred to Indiana University in 2004, but returned to graduate cum laude from Alabama in August 2007.[5] In 2014 Griffith received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology under Christof Koch[6] in computation and neural systems.[7] He is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute as a visiting researcher.[8]

Computer career[edit]

Griffith has given talks at the hacker conferences Interz0ne, PhreakNIC, and HOPE.

At Interz0ne 1 in 2002, 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 collaborated to study the flaw and attempted to give a talk about it at Interz0ne 2 in April 2003. A few hours before the presentation, he and Hoffman were served with a cease and desist order from corporate lawyers acting for Blackboard Inc..[9][10] Two days later, it was followed by a lawsuit alleging that they had stolen trade secrets and violated both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act[11][12] and the Economic Espionage Act.[13] The lawsuit was later settled.[citation needed]

On August 14, 2007, Griffith released a software utility, WikiScanner, that tracked Wikipedia article edits from unregistered accounts back to their originating IP addresses and identified the corporations or organizations to which they belonged.[14]

In 2008, together with Aaron Swartz, Griffith designed the Tor2web proxy.[15][16]


  • Virgil Griffith, Markus Jakobsson, 2005. Messin' with Texas: Deriving Mother's Maiden Names Using Public Records. ISBN 3-540-26223-7.
  • Virgil Griffith, Larry S. Yaeger, 2005, MIT Press. Ideal Free Distribution in Agents with Evolved Neural Architectures. Indiana University School of Informatics and Department of Cognitive Science.
  • Griffith is listed as one of the contributors (as "Virgil G") in Elonka Dunin (2006). The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes And Cryptograms. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-1726-2.[17]
  • Two articles in Markus Jakobsson, Steven Myers (2007) Phishing and Counter-Measures: Understanding the Increasing Problem of Electronic Identity Theft. Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 0-471-78245-9.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Heffernan, Virginia (November 23, 2008). "The Medium - Virgil Griffith, Internet Man of Mystery". The New York Times.
  2. ^ John Borland (August 14, 2007). "See Who's Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign". Wired. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
  3. ^ Griffith, Virgil. "Virgil Griffith's articles on arXiv" (List of papers in a search result.). arXiv. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Library. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  4. ^ "Alumnus Virgil Griffith Creates and Releases Wikipedia Scanner". September 3, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
  5. ^ See David Virgil Griffith in "Commencement" (PDF). The University of Alabama. 2007. Retrieved 29 August 2007.
  6. ^ "Scanner Tracks Who's Changing What on Wikipedia". NPR. August 16, 2007.
  7. ^ "CNS Graduate Students". California Institute of Technology Computation and Neural Systems. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
  8. ^ "SF I Profile: Virgil Griffith". Santa Fe Institute. March 27, 2008. Archived from the original on November 20, 2009.
  9. ^ Foster, Andrea L. (16 April 2003). "At Blackboard's Request, Judge Prevents Students From Discussing Security of Debit-Card System". Wayback Machine. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Archived from the original on April 7, 2007.
  10. ^ "Temporary Restraining Order against Hoffman and Griffith" (PDF). April 14, 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 20, 2003.
  11. ^ "Unintended Consequences: Seven Years under the DMCA". Electronic Frontier Foundation. April 2006. Archived from the original on February 15, 2006.
  12. ^ "The copyright cops strike again". Salon. 15 April 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  13. ^ Anitha Reddy (17 April 2003). "Blackboard Gets Gag Order Against Smart-Card Hackers". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 26 May 2012.
  14. ^ Jonathan Fildes (15 August 2007). "Wikipedia 'shows CIA page edits'". BBC News.
  15. ^ "New Service Makes Tor Anonymized Content Available to All". Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  16. ^ "tor2web brings anonymous Tor sites to the "regular" web". Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Mammoth Book of Secret Code Puzzles: Acknowledgements". Retrieved 2007-08-14.

External links[edit]