Parisa Tabriz’s job is to hack into Google Chrome to find security holes in the system before the “black hat” hackers do. She is one of just a handful of women who work in security and the larger technology sphere in general. When she was hired by Google eight years ago she thought her official job title—Information Security Engineer—was boring and not meaningful, so she changed it. Now her business cards read “Google Security Princess.” She trains and manages a security team that works to protect user data in the widely-popular Chrome web browser. Her team is on the lookout for cybercrime ranging from credit card theft, scams, and surveillance that she suspects is being carried out by large well-funded organizations or governments. Parisa says her job not only requires technical skills, but also an innate hacker mentality, so she can stay one step ahead of hackers by understanding their psychology.
The daughter of a doctor and nurse, she grew up in Chicago with little contact with computers until she started studying engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While in school, she taught herself web design using the online service Angelfire. The free version she used fed unwanted banner ads to her pages, so she hacked the service in order to remove them. Angelfire changed the program to combat her workarounds, and she would then find another way to block them. The thrill of that challenge inspired her to get into computer security. Now, 31-year-old Tabriz is one of the most prominent security experts in America.