John McAfee Wants To Shield You From NSA

Eccentric antivirus company founder pitches $100 gadget meant to help you evade all forms of electronic surveillance.

Mathew J. Schwartz, Contributor

October 1, 2013

3 Min Read

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Antivirus founder John McAfee wants to sell you a $100 box called D-Central designed to escape the National Security Agency's digital dragnet.

That pitch was made by McAfee -- Twitter tagline: "eccentric millionaire and still alive" -- Saturday during a "fireside chat" at Silicon Valley's C2SV Technology Conference. He said the devices could be used to create local, decentralized networks allowing laptops, tablets and smartphones to communicate and share files, backed by encryption to mask the network activity from any prying eyes.

"There will be no way [for the government] to tell who you are or where you are," McAfee said in his fireside chat, reported The Verge.

McAfee, who in 1987 founded but is no longer involved with the antivirus product company bearing his name, stormed back into the public consciousness last year after becoming a fugitive from justice in Belize, botching an attempted asylum bid in Guatemala, being deported to Miami, and ultimately landing in Portland, Ore., where he now resides.

[ Is the National Security Agency listening to your calls? Read NSA Vs. Your Smartphone: 5 Facts. ]

Since then, McAfee said he's been advancing plans to bring his D-Central to market, especially in the wake of the non-stop revelations over widespread NSA surveillance.

According to McAfee, D-Central will sport a unique encryption scheme that "the NSA won't get into," and be able to create a local Wi-Fi network with a range of about three blocks, which would further complicate efforts to monitor the networks. "Dcentral is the Internet equivalent of the Klingon cloaking device" from Star Trek, McAfee tweeted Monday.

McAfee himself "decloaked" earlier this year, at least in the pop culture sense, after he released a guide to uninstalling McAfee antivirus software, which proved popular with Internet viewers. (Spoiler alert: Some drugs and firearms might be required.)

Now, McAfee also plans to pitch D-Central not just for "privacy and freedom" purposes, but also squarely at pop culture consumers. Given the ease with which the gadgets could be used to enable file sharing, "I cannot imagine any college student not standing in line to buy one of these," McAfee said.

When might D-Central be ready for public vetting? McAfee said he's shooting for a prototype in about six months, and a related "Future Tense" website set up to advertise the product promised Tuesday that more details would be released in 172 days. "We have the design in place, we're looking for partners for development of the hardware," McAfee said.

Still, as noted by Mashable, this isn't the first attempt to create a localized network that offers better security and privacy than your typical hotspot. For example, a $50 Kickstarter-funded device known as FreedomBox will create a local mesh network. According to FreedomBox Foundation program manager Ian Sullivan, the system is meant to "keep your communications free and private whether chatting with friends or protesting in the street," although he emphasized that it could help during disaster response. Similarly, the Occupy movement's offers an "invisible temporary autonomous zone" that allows anyone within physical range of a device to use interact -- via Wi-Fi -- using the equivalent of an offline Web forum that gets carried on and replicated with each subsequent zone that the user encounters.

About the Author(s)

Mathew J. Schwartz


Mathew Schwartz served as the InformationWeek information security reporter from 2010 until mid-2014.

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