Mac hacker’s code so good, corporations keep stealing it

Patrick Wardle is known for being a Mac malware specialist, but his coding work has traveled far and wide without his permission.

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Corin Faife for The Verge:

A former employee of the NSA and NASA, he is also the founder of the Objective-See Foundation: a non-profit organization that creates open source security tools for macOS. This latter role means that much of Wardle’s software code is now freely available for download and decompilation, and some of this code has apparently caught the attention of tech companies that are using it without his permission.

Wardle will present his case in a presentation Thursday at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference with Tom McGuire, a cybersecurity researcher at Johns Hopkins University. The researchers found that code Wardle wrote and released as open source made its way into numerous commercial products over the years, all without users accrediting or licensing and paying for the work.

The problem, says Wardle, is that it’s difficult to prove that the code was stolen rather than similarly implemented by accident. Fortunately, thanks to Wardle’s skill in reverse engineering software, he was able to make more progress than most others.

“I could only understand [the code theft] because I write both tools and reverse engineering software, which is not very common, “Wardle told The Verge in a phone call before the talk.” Since I’m straddling both of these disciplines, I may find what happens to my tools, but other independent developers may not be able to do this, which is the concern. ”

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