Vulnerabilities / Threats
5/9/2013
10:38 AM
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McAfee, AV's King Of Crazy, Resurfaces

Antivirus pioneer and former fugitive from justice in Belize John McAfee shares more about his code-slinging and drug-smuggling past.

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Remember John McAfee?

In November, the information security genius and resident of Belize turned fugitive from justice after his neighbor was murdered. McAfee alleged that he was being framed by government authorities in retaliation for refusing to satisfy their extortion demands.

McAfee subsequently fled to Guatemala, where his location was revealed by GPS data attached to an uploaded iPhone snap, after which point he was arrested, requested asylum and faked a heart attack, before being denied asylum and deported to Miami. Since then, he relocated to Portland, Ore., where he's been working with a screenwriter, biographer and graphic novelist, while visiting strip clubs and house-hunting.

McAfee offered those tidbits -- and more -- in a Wednesday Q&A with Slashdot. As with his previous blog posts documenting life on the run, McAfee's answers displayed a predilection for hard-boiled fiction, if not gonzo embellishment.

[ A satire site is the first outlet to detail serious news about recent Twitter account takeovers. Read How Syrian Electronic Army Unpeeled The Onion. ]

With those caveats, here are five of the most interesting takeaways:

1. Belizean Politician Demanded Millions

Asked to comment on reports that he'd suffered harassment and death threats after refusing to "donate" $30,000 to a Belizean politician, McAfee said that there had been an extortion attempt, but for a significantly larger amount of money. "Had it been $30,000 I would have paid it in an instant," he said. "However it was not. It was $2 million."

As a result of his failure to pay up, McAfee has claimed that the government killed his dogs, then murdered his neighbor -- fellow U.S. citizen Gregory Viant Faull, 52 -- in a case of mistaken identity. Belizean authorities have denied all of McAfee's allegations..

2. Guatemalan Hideout Accidentally Revealed

McAfee's subsequent flight from justice in Belize -- where he was sought for questioning as part of the investigation into Faull's murder, although never charged with any crime -- was documented by Vice editor Rocco Castoro and photographer Robert King. But McAfee's arrival in Guatemala was revealed when Vice posted iPhone photographs from which GPS-coordinate-revealing EXIF data hadn't been expunged. At the time, said McAfee, the journalists worried the gaffe would be read as a stunt, allowing them to document the McAfee's resulting incarceration.

"To calm things down and to get everyone focused on our need to hastily scram, I told Rocco and Robert that I would take the fall and claim that I manipulated the exif data myself and they would be in the clear," he said. "Satisfied, they got packed, we left 10 minutes before the soldiers arrived, and I did what I said I would do. It was a stupid plan but it did clear the minds of the two journalists long enough to allow them to function properly in the shaky circumstances."

3. Staying Weird In Portland

After being deported to Miami, McAfee said the decision to relocate to Portland, Ore., where he's been living large, centered on there being a critical mass of Asian restaurants and good coffee, backed by the "Keep Portland Weird!" ethos regularly espoused on bumper stickers, as well as its proximity to two people who are documenting his life. "The gentleman producing the comic novel of my life (Chad Essley) and the screenwriter for the feature movie of the Belize incident both live here," he said. That feature movie, provisionally titled Running in the Background, is different from a separate production that's being developed by the team behind the Warner Bros. comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love, which will be based on "John McAfee's Last Stand," a story written by Joshua Davis for Wired.

McAfee also confirmed that he's tapped former cocaine player and convicted drug trafficker George "Boston George" Jung -- the subject of the 2001 biopic Blow -- to write his biography, provisionally titled No Domain.

4. Born To Run, Not Code

In the wide-ranging Q&A, McAfee said that despite launching a pioneering antivirus software business -- the first to distribute antivirus as shareware -- his code-writing prowess would win no awards. "I haven't written code in 20 years. In truth I was a terrible programmer," he said. "I was just good enough though to be able to spot the truly outstanding programmers. At McAfee I hired the best and then stayed out of their hair."

Asked to by a reader to comment on the security software that still bears his name, McAfee said he's not been associated with the company, which is now part of Intel, for 21 years. "It's barely a blip in the ocean of associations -- madman, paranoid, child molester, murderer, drug addict, unstable, liar, to name but a few," he said. "Thank god I'm 67 and will probably be too hard of hearing soon enough to have to listen to them rattling around wherever I go. Amy, thankfully, did half the job already by bursting my left eardrum when she tried to shoot me in the head while I slept back in 2011." He didn't specify exactly which Amy he was referring to.

5. Drug-Free 30 Years And Counting

Despite the drug-addict "associations" -- no doubt driven both by his behavior and freely dropped references to the designer drug known as bath salts -- McAfee said he's been sober for 30 years. "All this madness stopped in 1982 when my life disintegrated. I joined AA in 1982 and stopped drinking and drugging. [I] have not used any drugs, except for caffeine, nicotine and adrenaline, since," he said in response to a Slashdot question.

McAfee emphasized that his eccentricities aren't evidence of recent recreational drug use. "It's odd that people focus on the possibility that I might now be doing drugs (I'm not) and totally ignore the fact that from 1971 to 1982, 99% of my income came from smuggling and selling drugs," he said. "It's a well documented feature of my past life. I was also taking more drugs weekly than most of you will do in a lifetime, and I was a totally indiscriminate user."

McAfee said his drug-distribution habit had come at a personal cost. "I had my right testicle shattered by a hammer in 1974 when I ran afoul of some local drug barons in Oaxaca. Its the size of a grape now and shaped like a small frisbee," he said.

"I have been in Mexican jails on three separate occasions and, frankly, I cannot recommend them," he added.

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