Katie Moussouris is an American computer security researcher who is changing the way we view hacking and hackers. She is known for her work in vulnerability disclosure and has implemented many security measures for the technology companies we use every day. She is the founder of her own computer safety company called Luta, which promotes responsible tech monitoring. Her work has even been used in government projects in the Pentagon. She’s a leader and an influencer, advocating for responsible security research and bridging the gap between companies and the hacker community to create safer online environments for all. 

A photo of Katie Moussouris - vulnerability disclosure advocate and equal pay activist

How It All Began

Katie was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, by a single mother who encouraged her to chase her dreams. Katie had a spark for computer science from a young age, and in third grade, her mother gave her her first computer, where she practiced coding. Her mother was a Native Pacific Islander, and she faced racial and gender discrimination while working in the science field. This planted a strong message in Katie to stand up for what is right. In high school, Katie was the first girl to take AP computer science and has been a trailblazer ever since. She went to Simmons College to study molecular biology and mathematics. While in college, she had the chance to work on the Human Genome Project at MIT. She started as a lab assistant but worked her way up to a systems administrator for MIT’s Department of Aeronautics.

After college, Katie Moussouris started her work in computer science in California and was a part of the West Coast hacker community. She quickly became interested in computer safety and started working on vulnerability disclosure. Vulnerability in tech is when hackers find a flaw in code that weakens the security of a specific computer program. This is especially important because hackers can exploit these flaws and find vulnerable information. She implemented vulnerability management at companies such as Symantec and Microsoft. 

Bug Bounty Hacking Program

During her time at Microsoft, Katie founded grants for young developers and even created their bug bounty program. A bug bounty is a hacking program where hackers can be paid to find flaws in companies’ coding to prevent data leaks and increase overall security. This work was so successful that it was used in the Department of Defense’s “Hack the Pentagon” program. Katie’s research landed her many achievements, and she was even among America’s top 50 women in tech, according to Forbes. Her success is a testament to hard work and dedication and has inspired many other hackers to make a positive difference in the world.

Despite facing some tough hurdles at Microsoft, she stood her ground and challenged the unfair practices. In 2015, she took a bold stand against gender bias, spotlighting how she and many other talented women were being shortchanged on pay and promotions. It’s a story that’s way too familiar in the tech world, but Katie’s not backing down. She’s all about smashing those barriers and showing that gender has no place in holding anyone back professionally. Her mantra? Believe in yourself and go full throttle for what you’re passionate about—otherwise, it’s just time lost.

Hacking Activist Makes An Impact

Katie Moussouris has made a remarkable impact on the tech industry, not just through her work in computer safety but also as an activist for equality. Her gender discrimination fight has shed light on the broader issue of inequality in tech, inspiring others to take action. Her determination to ensure that merit, not gender, controls one’s professional journey has sparked interest and action toward a more inclusive industry. Not only that, but her legacy is one of resilience, empowerment, and the pursuit of passion and fairness in the workplace. She’s an inspiration, proving that standing up for equality can make a difference.

Listen to Katie Moussouris explain more about the Bug Bounty program!!

Food for Thought

Why do you think equal pay is important? Did your view on hackers change after reading this? Why is vulnerability essential in technology?