Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day: Joanna Rutkowska

(This post is for Ada Lovelace day, a new media event for raising awareness about women in technology. You can find a list of the many other posts here.)

Happy Ada Lovelace Day, everyone! Today, I'd like to talk about the woman who, more than anyone else inspired me to go into computer science, Joanna Rutkowska. Joanna Rutkowska is a computer security researcher. Simply put, she tries to find new ways to break into a computer, so that the bugs which allowed the break-in can be fixed. And she is very good at it. Her original claim to fame was the Blue Pill, a virtualization rootkit. Basically, it uses hardware present in newer processors to take over a computer. (If you want to know more, read her blog post, but be warned - it's very complicated!) The Blue Pill sparked a bit of a media frenzy - not to mention controversy (over whether is was really undetectable). Now, she is the CEO of Invisible Things Lab, a computer security research company.

At the time the blue pill was released, I was fascinated by the whole situation, and by Joanna. If you think about is, most of the really well known people in technology are teachers, especially for women. And yet, here was a woman who essentially, A: wrote some brilliant code, and B: gave a little presentation about it. And it was a big deal. More than that, and despite all the media craziness, I got the distinct impression that Joanna didn't really care about the whole circus, not really - she just wanted to hack computers!

Now, there's certainly nothing wrong with teaching - but I personally don't like it, and have no desire to teach. It felt strange to me that almost all of the women in technology I read about were teachers. And so, Joanna has become a tremendous role model for me. She's a programmer, a researcher, she's brilliant, and she's just really, really... cool! (After all, that's what technology is in the end - finding cool new things to do!)

So thank you, Joanna, and all of the other women we're honoring for Ada Lovelace Day. Thanks for being an inspiration and for simply doing what you do best!

(Crossposted at Constant Thoughts)

No comments: