Ex-NSA staffer creates app to notify users of evil maid attack on MacBook

It is a fact that a MacBook cannot be easily hacked and to pull off this incredible feat, the attacker either needs a sophisticated malware or requires physical access to the computer. Once an attacker has acquired physical access, it will be quite easy to perform a variety of attacks.

Exploiting a machine by acquiring physical access is referred to as the Evil Maid attack in security fraternity. That’s a metaphorical title given to a type of attack pointing to the possibility of maids at the hotel sneaking into the hotel room of the victim and compromising laptop in his/her absence.

But, a former National Security Agency staffer Patrick Wardle has identified a workable solution to prevent someone accessing a MacBook. Wardle has developed an application that will notify the user as soon as someone tries to exploit his MacBook. The alerting process will be so prompt that the user will be notified as soon as the laptop’s lid is opened.

But what led to the development of such an app?

Wardle explained that he has become a victim of Evil Maid attack himself. He was in Moscow at the time when he was lured on a Tinder date and meanwhile someone tried to hack his MacBook that he left in the hotel room. He started suspecting foul play and hence, decided to develop an app to prevent the attack for good.

The iOS app is dubbed as Do Not Disturb. It is designed to protect Mac machines from Evil Maid. Not only does it promptly alerts the MacBook owner but also enables the computer’s webcam to take a photograph of the person trying to access the machine. It also remotely instructs the machine to initiate hard shutdown or record screen activity.

Ex-NSA staffer creates app to notify users of evil maid attack on MacBook

While speaking with Wired, Wardle stated that most Evil Maid attacks need a turned-on and active computer in order to be successfully executed. Do Not Disturb keeps monitoring the MacBook to identify when the lid opens.

“If someone tries to break into your device, it alerts you,” said Wardle.

Wardle, who turned security researcher after leaving NSA, has himself executed Evil Maid attack on-camera for Vice News. He wanted to demonstrate that although Do Not Disturb isn’t a foolproof solution to prevent malicious cybercriminals from exploiting Macs but it can at least alert about it, which is a good start.

You can download the app from App Store. The app is free but if you want to receive alerts on an iOS device than you might need to install a companion app. You will receive a 7-day free trial after which you will be required to subscribe. Subscription charges are $0.99 per month and $9.99 annually.

Edward Snowden’s Haven app

Do Not Disturb is similar to Haven app developed by ex-NSA spy and whistleblower Edward Snowden. Haven also lets users know if their devices were accessed by someone else in their absence, however, Haven works on both laptops and smartphones.

More technical information on Haven is available here.

Image credit: Depositphotos

Uzair Amir

I am an Electronic Engineer, an Android Game Developer and a Tech writer. I am into music, snooker and my life motto is 'Do my best, so that I can't blame myself for anything.'