The mid ‘90s marked the dawn of macro viruses written into software like word processors and spreadsheet programs. WM.Concept, a 1995 virus was shipped with Microsoft Word for Mac CD ROMs. The virus was largely harmless and merely displayed a ‘1’ message box on infected PCs and Macs. Laroux, a similar virus later surfaced for Microsoft’s Excel, yet didn’t hit Macs until 1998 with the release of Excel 98. Like Concept, Laroux was nondestructive and simply appended a macro sheet called “laroux” to users’ workbooks.



MDEF (also known as Garfield) and its variants emerged on the malware scene in 1990 to infect application and system files in Macintosh 128K and 512K, 512KE, Mac Plus, SE, SE/30, II, IIx, IIcx, IIci and IIfx computers. Coded by an Ithaca, N.Y. teenager and identified at nearby Cornell University, the malware didn’t cause intentional damage but could cause crashes and damage files.

With the recent glut of high profile Mac-based malware like MacDefender and Flashback, it’s easy to forget that Macintosh computers (and Mac malware) have been kicking around for more than thirty years – longer, even, than Windows malware. In fact, the first documented Mac virus actually predated some of the first PC viruses by a good four years.

Don’t blab

If you’re worried that your conversations are being monitored, old fashioned “coded talk” also works to disguise the meaning of your conversations. Asking “how are the kids?” rather than “how’s the progress on our new chip design?” may be enough to throw attackers off the scent.

(Images via perspective‘s Flickr photostream)

Lock your doors

Don’t ignore physical security. Morehouse said he knows of many executives and foreign travelers who have returned to their hotel room to find it trashed and mobile devices missing. Once criminals have physical control of your device, protecting its contents is a much bigger challenge. 

(Images via blmurch‘s and chokingsun‘s Flickr photostream)

Mind that signal

The pace of change in mobile spying applications is rapid. However, when it comes to intercepting phone calls in the field, phones that use the older 2G mobile communications standard are easier to crack. Often, organizations that want to carry out an attack will force a mobile device from 3G into 2G only mode. Researchers have already demonstrated, publicly, that the A5/1 algorithm that protects 2G communications can be broken and communications decrypted in real time. Of course, depending on your destination, 3G wireless may not be an option to begin with.

Google Voice is a free VOIP service that can be used to create “throw away” voice accounts for travelers. Having your conversations handled on Google’s infrastructure also provides a measure of security over foreign telecommunications networks, which – depending on the country – could cooperating with the state to conduct surveillance on visiting executives. Once your trip is over, discontinue the number. Even better: kick it old school style with analog communications. “A lot of the focus of the surveillance industry is on digital communications. Analog is considered a thing of the past.

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