Ex-NSA Hacker’s First Hack Was Hiding a Backdoor in His High School Calculator

Nowadays, Patrick Wardle is mostly known for finding vulnerabilities and bugs in MacOS. He’s one of the most renowned researchers when it comes to Apple’s operating system, and he also organizes a MacOS-specific security conference.

Many years ago, before he worked at the NSA, when Wardle was in high school, he was already a hacker. At the time, he had a TI-83 calculator, which was made to run custom made apps, his first programmable device. That’s when he thought: can I solve calculus equations with this and get some help during exams? 

There was a problem though: before tests, the teacher would go around and check everyone’s calculators for non-permissible apps. Wardle, however, found a solution. He hid a backdoor in the calculator, an innocuous-looking app that would reveal the actual problem-solving app when Wardle would press a series of buttons. 

And that was Wardle’s first hack. Listen to the whole story in the podcast below.