Content Archive for @nptacek

  • Helped stop a 4-million strong botnet that was responsible for at least $14 million in click-fraud.
  • Helped identify and shut down a trojan horse responsible for the theft of 20 BTC.
  • Full-stack developer with expert knowledge of the entire software development lifecycle; designed, developed, and shipped multiple award-winning security and privacy apps for the Mac platform.
  • Created a number of free malware removal tools.
  • I’ve written and spoken extensively about cybersecurity topics including ransomware, spyware, and digital privacy; my work has been cited extensively in print and on the web.
  • I’m particularly proud of my time co-hosting The Checklist Podcast, during which I made it a goal to help make complex computer security topics accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
  • Extensive experience with malware research and analysis, utilizing a variety of reverse-engineering and OSINT techniques to determine capabilities, advise on and implement appropriate response, and publish both technical and accessible research on a variety of threats.
  • Extensive experience working with a diverse array of platforms and APIs across a number of e-commerce backends (eSellerate, FastSpring, DevMate, Paddle, MailChimp).
  • I tend to see trends before others.
  • I like helping people and sharing knowledge.
  • I like to come up with novel solutions to unique problems.
  • I work best in a fast-paced environment that is still guided by long-term vision.
  • I’ve most recently been spending my spare time hard at work in the NFT space.

Awards and Reviews

In Print

External Citations

2005–2007 | Overview

I spent most of 2005 working on the design, code, and e-commerce integration for MacScan 2, initially conceived as an anti-spyware app for the Mac platform. MacScan 2 was released online near the end of the year, and officially debuted at Macworld Expo in early 2006. Over the next two years I worked on building out major new features for the program, including the transition from PowerPC to Intel architecture, support for Korean language localization, malware scan scheduling and tracking cookie identification and removal. End user support, bug fixes, and malware analysis continued to be part of my everyday work throughout the duration of my time with SecureMac.

2008 | Overview

After releasing a free tool to remove the DNSChanger Trojan Horse from infected systems, I participated in the DNS Changer Working Group (DCWG), helping provide technical analysis, mitigation strategies, and support for users with infected systems. This work was essential to the success of Operation Ghost Click and in the years to come as we worked to clean a large number of infected systems from around the globe.

2008 | Writing

2008 | In The News

2009 | Overview

During this time I created the iWorkServices Trojan Horse removal tool, a free release from SecureMac, which served to blunt the impact of a botnet of infected machines that came online a few months later.

2009 | Writing

2009 | In The News

2010 | Overview

Right before Halloween 2010, I identified a brand new family of Mac malware, the Boonana trojan horse, and created another free removal tool, which was released by SecureMac. There was a bit of uncertainty in the media after misidentification by another security vendor, but I was confident in my analysis, which was later confirmed by Microsoft.

2010 | Writing

2010 | In The News

2011 | Overview

I spent much of 2011 in another game of cat-and-mouse with malware developers, this time with the Mac Defender family of fake anti-virus apps. During this time I released multiple version updates for MacScan 2, and continued working on PrivacyScan, which was starting to really come together.

2011 | Writing

2012 | Overview

PrivacyScan was released at Macworld | iWorld Expo 2012 to broad critical acclaim, winning a Best of Show Award from Macworld UK, and later selected as a Mac Gem for Macworld Gemfest 2012. The rest of the year was spent updating and supporting PrivacyScan in addition to MacScan 2, along with my normal malware analysis responsibilities.

2012 | Writing

2012 | Awards

2013 | Overview

I continued malware research, along with my work on MacScan 2 and PrivacyScan.

2013 | Writing

2013 | Awards

2014 | Overview

Early in the year I discovered a new piece of crypto-stealing Mac malware after seeing a post on reddit. 20 BTC didn’t seem like quite as big of a deal back then!

2014 | Writing

2014 | In The News

2015 | Overview

My major work focus in 2015 involved getting MacScan 3 across the finish line and ready to ship while continuing to provide support for existing product lines. I focused on frontend work, e-commerce integration, anti-piracy measures, and product testing throughout the year.

2016 | Overview

After officially launching MacScan 3 at Macworld San Francisco 2016, I found myself in charge of supporting three active commercial apps at the same time. I spearheaded the initiative to provide a clear end-of-life strategy to gracefully retire support for MacScan 2, which was successfully implemented over the course of the year. I facilitated the App Store takedown of an iOS app caught stealing Instagram passwords, gave an interview on ransomware, and started getting serious with my written work.

2016 | Writing

2016 | Podcasts

2016 | In The News

2017 | Overview

I wrote a major piece on spyware (now more commonly known as stalkerware); a portion of this primer was republished as the feature article in the Fall issue of MacDirectory magazine.

2017 | Writing

2017 | Podcasts

2018 | Overview

Continued support and development for both MacScan 3 and PrivacyScan, along with malware analysis. During this time I helped facilitate the takedown of multiple subscription scam apps that had made it through Apple’s review process and into the App Store. I continued to cover a mix of both current events and core cybersecurity concepts through my writing as well as my spoken work on The Checklist.

2018 | Writing

2018 | Podcasts

2019 | Overview

During this time I concentrated on my core responsibilities supporting the existing commercial products, worked on an e-commerce platform migration for PrivacyScan, and continued administering my father’s estate.

2020 | Overview

I realized Covid would be a thing a number of months before it was on most peoples’ radar, and updated my plans for 2020 accordingly. Having worked remote for years at this point, not much changed for me on the day-to-day. I continued to support my existing projects, continued my exploration of VR/AR/XR, and navigated the chaotic year as best I could.

2020 | Writing

2020 | Podcasts

2021 | Overview

My SecureMac work continued apace in 2021, and I appeared in a couple articles from Vice.

  • Focus on outreach and community building efforts within the NFT space.
  • I was selected as one of the first moderators for the Loot Project Forums, where I helped set up the initial mod team structure, goals, and code of conduct, helped onboard new mods, and where I continue to perform routine forum moderation responsibilities (Volunteer position).
  • Wrote a couple onboarding pieces on NFTs.
  • Found and responsibly disclosed a security hole I found in a live smart contract, working with the contract authors to mitigate the threat after verifying it was not otherwise exploited.
  • Did a deep dive on NFT rarity analysis.
  • Designed and developed an NFT market analytics and arbitrage app that offers a number of improvements over the native OpenSea experience. More information on this project coming soon.

2021 | Writing

2021 | In The News

2022 | Writing

2022 | In The News

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