Three Of Our Favorite Hackers

It’s one thing to pull off a hack, it’s another entirely to explain it so that everyone can understand. [Micah Elizabeth Scott] took a really complicated concept (power glitching attacks) and boiled a successful reverse engineering process into one incredible video. scanlime-power-smoothing-alterationsWe know, watching 30 minutes of video these days is a huge ask, just watch it and thank us later.

She explains the process of dumping firmware from a Wacom tablet by hacking what the USB descriptors share. This involves altering the power rail smoothing circuit, building her own clock control board to work with the target hardware and a ChipWhisperer, then iterating the glitch until she hones in on the perfect attack.

This, of course isn’t her first rodeo. Also known as [scanlime], she’s been on the scene in a big way for a while now. Check out more of her work, and perhaps congratulate her on recently being scooped up for a Principal Researcher role that we’d like to attribute in part to the hacks she’s been demoing online. You should also thank her for being a Hackaday Prize Judge in 2015 and 2016.

led-handbag-debra-ansel-geekmomprojects-closeupThis year we spotted [Debra Ansell] at Maker Faire, not as an exhibitor but an attendee taking her newest creation out in the wild. [Debra’s] LED matrix handbag is a marvel of fabrication — both design and execution are so great it is hard to believe this is not a commercially available product. But no, the one-of-a-kind bag uses woven leather strips spaced perfectly to leave room for WS2812 RGB LED modules to nestle perfectly. Look slike she even posted a tutorial since we last checked! If you don’t recognize her name, you might recognize her company: GeekMomProjects. She’s the person behind EtchABot, a robotic addendum to the diminutive pocket Etch a Sketch which [Debra] sells on Tindie.

The custom PCBs of Veronica (in troubleshoot mode)

Our fascination with [Quinn Dunki]’s work goes way way back. She has a software background but her hardware chops are to be admired. Recently we’ve delighted in her efforts to beef up the fabrication abilities of her shop. Want to know how to vet your new drill press — [Quinn] has you covered. We also enjoyed seeing her bring an inexpensive bandsaw up to snuff. There are too many other great hacks from [Quinn Dunki] to start naming them all. We’ll leave you with her amazing work on Veronica, the scratch-built 6502 computer that she brought with her for her Hackaday 10th Anniversary talk. Her avatar at the top is from one of her PCB etching tutorials.

Celebrating Ada Lovelace Day

Today is the second Tuesday in October — it’s Ada Lovelace day, a worldwide celebration of women in science and technology. The hackers above are some of our all-around favorites and we have featured all of their work frequently. Their impact on technology is undeniable, we give them much respect for their skills and accomplishments. We’d love to hear your own favorite examples of women who have incredible game when it comes to hardware hacking. Please let us know in the comments below.

44 thoughts on “Three Of Our Favorite Hackers

  1. Why do we do this? Why do we set up a special Olympics type of bullshit holiday for people that are, no, SHOULD BE peers?

    Women hack, get the fuck over it.

    1. It’s probably got something to do with the history of the world, and the fact that even now the number of female graduate engineers is way down since the peak in the 80s.

      It’s one day a year dude, get over it.

      1. You and most other replies to this comment seem to have read this in the least charitable way possible.
        IMO They’re complaining that we don’t recognize women hackers more often the rest of the year. Why relegate our appreciation to one day a year?

    2. You seem disturbed!

      Well, we all get disturbed at one point or an another. For example when I see “When did writer=engineer?” I get disturbed because I’m a C programmer I expect it to be “When did writer==engineer?” :-)

    3. Calm down.

      Changing things sometimes feels weird. And yes, it carries some risks.

      But there *are* things worth changing (there are other posts detailing those more eloquently than I could).

    4. From the perspective of someone who has two daughters – it’s a struggle to expose them to engineering, programming, etc. My youngest was one of the few girls in the school’s robotics club, and my oldest wasn’t sure about applying for the computer club because it was “nerdy” (my kids have both been soldering since the age of ~7). There’s nothing wrong with positive role models for them – there is still such a small number of women in technology and engineering – encouraging them is important.

      1. Agree, encouraging women to pursue technical fields is a good thing. It bothers me that young women might not pursue something they would enjoy and be great at because it defies social norms. Women should not have to self identify as massive nerds as a prerequisite for going into engineering or physics or any other technical field.

          1. Show proof of what? Show proof that encouragement is a good thing? Show proof that he’s bothered by people not doing something they enjoy? Show proof that women shouldn’t have to identify as massive nerds?

          2. Shannon, I can’t reply further because of HaD’s commenting system.


            “It bothers me that young women might not pursue something they would enjoy and be great at because it defies social norms. Women should not have to self identify as massive nerds as a prerequisite for going into engineering or physics or any other technical field.”

            To me asserts that:

            a) There is an enforcer of social norms that keeps women from entering engineering and

            b) That women have to self identify as massive nerds as a prerequisite for going into engineering, or physics or any other technical field.

            That’s why I said show some proof that either a) or b) is happening.

            Do you find either of these to be so obviously true that they don’t warrant citing examples?

          3. I didn’t have any proof, I just anecdotally recall many of the smart women who kicked my ass in math and physics in high school wound up getting liberal arts degrees and eventually becoming lawyers or something along those lines.

            You can quickly google and find evidence that social norms push women away from STEM:

            The thing about self identifying as a massive nerd, that’s not something there is going to be a study on. It’s also just one of those things you sense, the technical world is steeped in this tiresome geek/nerd culture which is more masculine than feminine.

    5. Your point is valid, but at least this article–on this site–did it properly. This blog showcases projects from all kinds of people, and never once uses labels like “female hacker” or anything like that. And in this particular case, Mike makes a point to title the article simply “some of our favorite hackers” and doesn’t mention anything except their accomplishments throughout. He then sprinkled the whole ‘female’ thing in at the end, but didn’t explicitly connect it. Something tells me he was compelled to write this, but didn’t feel like buying into the political bullshit.

    6. Not that anyone cares, but I personally agree. My wife has mentioned on several occasions how condescending this sort of thing seems to her, and I can say that if the roles were reversed (i.e. We need more men in interior design or as stay-at-home dads or whatever, so let’s set up a special day for them and tell them how proud we are of them for overcoming ALL THOSE HURDLES [sic]….) I think I’d avoid it like the plague because it assumes that it’s somehow more difficult for me (a man) than a woman when it’s not, and that has nothing to do with it. I’d love my girls to follow in my footsteps and go into computer science, but I’m not going to try to bait them into it by building it up as some sort of greater achievement simply because they’re female. I mean seriously, how is that NOT demeaning and sexist? ….. but what do I know…

      1. We don’t have days like this to show women that these skills are harder for them and therefore deserve praise. We don’t say “be like these ladies and do something hard for praise.”

        We have days like this because the sheer number of male hackers out there means it is easy to miss some great work done by women. We should be saying “just because computers looks like a boys-club, it really isn’t. And you can make some big improvments if you work just as hard as the boys do.” And then I hope we can recognise those new hackers and makers on the other 364 days of the year.

        1. “We have days like this because the sheer number of male hackers out there means it is easy to miss some great work done by women.”

          A hacker is a hacker is a hacker. Sex (or “gender identity” if you prefer) should have absolutely nothing to do with it. Knowledge and skill should be praised above all else, you shouldn’t get treated any differently just because you’re a woman. That is the very definition of sexism, and it’s bullshit of the highest order.

          1. You’re correct: gender shouldn’t have anything to do with hacking; knowledge and skill should be praised above all else; we shouldn’t be treated differently because we’re women. However: gender measurably does have something to do with hacking; knowledge isn’t praised above all else; we are treated differently because we’re women. Some of these issues might be because we’ve gotten to the point where men in tech so vastly outnumber the women in tech.
            Since as you say “it shouldn’t matter”, we need to redress the balance, we need to make it not matter. That’s something that has to be done actively, we can’t just wait for it to fix itself because of good intentions.

      2. Jmc1029, The issue with females in technology goes way beyond their level of interest. I am a female with years, yes decades in IT and Information Security. First, most people forget that the early days of computing in the ’30s and ’40s in the USA were RULED by women because the males in computing saw programming as *clerical* work.

        Second, despite being a geek since I could walk, and having a string of technical certifications, I have watched males with less than half of my qualifications get promotion after promotion and end up as directors. I have a boatload of achievements. But what happens is a thing called Gender Segregation.

        It is Gender Segregation that has kept the percentage of females in cybersecurity at 11% in the USA for the past THIRTEEN YEARS. They ARE interested, they DO enter the field, and then they run into a hundred thousand invisible barriers, just as I have for the past fifteen years. They don’t get the promotions, their education and certifications get ignored, while men with fewer qualifications pass by and get promoted. I’d probably leave too, but I have too much time and money invested in being the expert that I am.

        If you want to read more, look up the frost & sullivan women in cybersecurity report from 2017. It explains more than I have room for here. Getting females to be technical is a start; changing the so-called culture of technology to keep them and promote them as they should be is what needs to happen. Oh, and by the way, companies that have a gender-balanced team at the upper management level MAKE MORE MONEY. You want more money?? Get your tech company to 50% female manageement. This statistic comes from Read and elarn

        There are a lot of women who would be interested in being technical. Societal pressure is just the tip of the iceberg.

    7. I dont get it either, maybe Mikes inner SJW took over. Posts like this one are part of the problem, not a solution. Im pretty sure girls mentioned above do not appreciate this ‘great hacker, even tho she woman’ type publicity. Whats next, a list of black hackers? Personally I (and hopefully most of people here) dont care about shape and color of bits on your body.

  2. A short list of a few of the women to whom we owe thanks for making modern computing and the internet possible…

    Glenda Schroeder, implemented first shell, described 1st email implementation.

    Judith Estrin, co-developer of TCP/IP, early LAN implementations, later work on routers and bridges.

    Joyce K. Reynolds, notable RFC co-author including FTP, Telnet, POP

    Elizabeth J. Feinler, operated NIC for ARPANET and contributed to modern internet name services.

    Radia Perlman, developer of network bridging technology, that helped networks transform from strictly local, to wide area, and international.

    Nicola Pellow, wrote the second browser, a portable one, so Berners-Lee’s innovation could spread further than the NeXT platform.

    Sally Floyd, by the early 90s, the intertubes were already getting clogged. Floyd’s development of congestion control protocols, provided the draino to keep our tubes clear.

    1. What a load of absolute rubbish, everyone knows women in the past weren’t allowed to do any kind of science or engineering because its a nasty old boys club. None of these women could have possibly done any of this because they simply were not allowed up until the past year or so when we realised that actually the cure for all the worlds problems is to force, coerce and bribe as many women into science and engineering as possible, whether they want to or not!!

      1. There is some truth in what you says. Funny to see that those who pretend that there must be has much women as men everywhere don’t realize that more women in engineering means less women elsewhere because there is a somewhat constant number of them going to university.

  3. “Follow Your Passion”, which will usually be the thing that people didn’t discourage you from. The problem is that the engineering world is not very welcoming and still remains somewhat sexist. The word gets out about how this choice could be a constant struggle and *poof*… choice of passion gets altered in high school.

  4. A few years ago there was a story about a woman who’d learned to make traditional saddles by taking one apart, and then “making lots of mistakes”. That’s hacking, experience based learning.

    She was an American Indian, I start to notice that native people get left out when there’s talk of minorities. Even though they had “technology” before Europeans came over.

    After all, it was Indigenous People’s Day in Seattle yesterday.


  5. I think it is a bit ironic that in selecting a representative to celebrate women in science, one whose contributions were marginal at best and who worked in the shadow of a man would be chosen.

  6. My daughters seem to have IQs that are high enough for all these “equity issues” to be irrelevant, i.e. I am confident when they decide what they what to do with their minds that they will be able to excel at it.

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