Virgil Griffith

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Virgil Griffith
Occupation Research Scientist
Employer Ethereum
Location Singapore
Personal Twitter @virgilgr
LinkedIn Profile
Website Griffith's Personal Page

Virgil Griffith is an American hacker and cryptocurrency enthusiast. A resident of Singapore at the time, Griffith is best known for his arrest by U.S. authorities on Thanksgiving 2019 at Los Angeles airport as he returned to the U.S. He was after giving a talk at a conference in North Korea in which he explained how to use cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to launder money, according to U.S. federal investigators.[1]


Griffith attended the University of Alabama from 2002 to 2004. He left before finishing his education there after he was sued by Blackboard, Inc. for exploiting security flaws in a computer program used by the University to administer campus ID cards, then attempting to present his findings at a conference in Atlanta, GA. The case ended with both parties settling out of court. Griffith also invented a data-mining tool called a WikiScanner, which showed the user which users made edits to a Wikipedia entry, which he did in order to combat the spread of propaganda on Wikipedia articles. He received a PhD in Philosophy from Caltech in 2014. In a 2008 interview with the New York Times, he said that he aspired to "create minor public-relations disasters" for organizations he disliked. He later became a research scientist for the Ethereum Foundation.[2][3] Griffith is an avid poster on social media, though the sincerity of some of his posts is questionable. On his personal Twitter page, he declares that "a high proportion of my tweets will be trolling and sh*tposting."[4]

North Korea

Griffith seems to have had a fascination with North Korea, evidenced by several posts he made on social media.[5][6] In 2019, Griffith flew to North Korea by way of China, circumventing U.S. travel restrictions. He allegedly gave a speech at a conference in Pyongyang in which he explained to the audience that it was possible to launder money using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. He was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Thanksgiving 2019 and charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.[7][8]

Transferred to a prison in New York, Griffith was originally denied bail by the federal court for the southern district of New York. At a motion hearing to reverse the denial of bail, Judge Broderick told Griffith, "Laws in this country are not suggestions." After hearing evidence indicating that Griffith is likely to comply with the court's restrictions, Broderick ordered that Griffith be released to his parents' custody in Alabama against $1 million in bail.[9]

Griffith, wearing a gray suit, appeared in federal court and pleaded not guilty to the one charge of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act on Thursday on January 30.[10]