Graduate Spotlight: Ryan Pickren
Ryan Pickren gained notoriety for hacking the University of Georgia website prior to "Clean, Old Fashioned Hate" in 2014, but used the experience to begin working in bug bounty programs and ultimately give back to Georgia Tech.
It’s no secret that one of the most important funding channels for universities is alumni giving back to their alma mater with a financial gift. Computer Engineering graduate Ryan Pickren got a head start before graduating.
After helping United Airlines secure its website by uncovering numerous “bugs,” he contributed 5 million miles from United to Georgia Tech for use by students and organizations participating in charity work around the world.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Ryan,” said Steven W. McLaughlin, Steve W. Chaddick School Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, at the time the gift was announced. “We always enjoy seeing how our students apply the knowledge they gain in class to real-world challenges. Not only is he applying that in an incredibly creative way, but he is also sharing his success with current and future Georgia Tech students. It is a generous, inspired and impressive legacy — all while he is still a student. Wow!”
United’s “Bug Bounty” program wasn’t Pickren’s first foray into exploiting vulnerabilities in websites. In 2014 he was arrested for inserting onto the University of Georgia’s online event calendar that Georgia Tech would beat them in the annual rivalry football game.
“It launched my career into doing bug bounty programs, which led to other things, and ultimately, I’m really excited about going to work for Amazon,” Pickren said.