The 23-Year-Old Engineer

We have all seen news like Facebook’s latest feature leaking to the public even before the company itself has announced it. So where do these information leaks come from?

Jane Wong is a 23-year-old software engineering student from UMass Dartmouth. If you go through her Twitter, you will see feature after feature, leak after leak from tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Instagram.

Many tech publications have offered her jobs to snoop for them exclusively, but she prefers to work independently. So how does she do what she does? And why?

How does it work?

Jane finds her information through reverse engineering. Reverse engineering is the process of deconstructing and then recreating a platform or program. As a result, you are able to learn its structure along with its strengths and weaknesses.

Jane reverse engineers apps to find out what features the companies have been testing recently. Amazingly enough, she is often the first to find out about them, even before famous tech publications like TechCrunch and Engadget.

She prefers to only leak major information, preferring not to mention minor changes. When she finds weaknesses, she reports them bug bounty programs so that companies can take care of those mistakes.

She has around 6,000 Twitter followers, some of which plagiarize her information by reposting her tweets to gain more followers without giving her credit. However, she doesn’t let those individuals stop her from doing what she loves.

She describes reverse-engineering as an adventure like treasure hunting. Her reward is being able to see what’s new, what’s coming next. One day she hopes to work for one of the platforms she reverse-engineers.

Vocabulary

  1. Leak – an intentional disclosure of secret information; revelation
  2. Publication – a magazine, a book, a newspaper, or document that has been printed and made available to the public
  3. Snoop – investigate or look around furtively in an attempt to find out something
  4. Bug bounty program – a bug bounty program is a deal offered by many websites and software developers by which individuals can receive recognition and compensation for reporting bugs
  5. Plagiarize – take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one’s own
  6. Reward – a thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement; prize

Questions for Discussion

  1. Do you think there is any harm in leaking that sort of information?
  2. Why do publications want to hire Jane?
  3. If you had access to that kind of information, what would you do?

 

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