John McAfee, cybersecurity mogul, 1945-2021


When cybersecurity mogul John McAfee tried to run for the White House in 2016, he invoked a Silicon Valley mantra by Steve Jobs in his campaign video, celebrating nonconformists: round pegs in square forums. ” .

McAfee, who was found dead in a Spanish prison cell Wednesday due to an apparent suicide, has adapted each of those descriptions – and even more so.

In his 75s, the pioneer of his eponymous antivirus software built and lost a fortune, he rebuilt himself as a libertarian politician, and then as a man of hype in cryptocurrency – all while he had repeatedly brushed with the law.

His death came hours after the Spanish high court approved an extradition request from the United States, where he was charged with tax evasion. McAfee had been in prison in Barcelona since October, when he was arrested at the request of the United States after fleeing America on his yacht, in the final of several high-level flights by the authorities.

For many, McAfee’s nomadic life was plunged into paranoia, violence and grifting. He had recently been accused of fraud for his participation in cryptocurrency pump-and-dump schemes, and had been linked by authorities to the murder of a neighbor in 2012. His speeches on Twitter and YouTube were become increasingly incoherent.

But for the friends and fans who addressed his campaign video, he was an anti-establishment hero – whose fears around the surveillance of technology government and financial institutions today reflected a growing distrust of authority. .

“He has always dreamed of building an alternative internet that would not have all the flaws and problems that the current internet has,” said Kim Dotcom, an entrepreneur and Internet friend who himself is accused of creating one of the most major copyright infringements in history.

In McAfee’s words, for his Twitter biography, he was an “iconoclast” and a “lover of women, adventure and mystery.”

McAfee in 1989. Its software became ubiquitous as the threat of computer viruses grew © John Storey / Getty

McAfee in Guatemala

McAfee in Guatemala, where he was later arrested and deported to the United States © Joe Raedle / Getty

McAfee was born in 1945 at an army base in the United Kingdom to an English mother and an American soldier who was stationed there. Educated in mathematics, McAfee soon learned to master computer science during the seasons at Nasa, Xerox and Lockheed Martin in the 1970s and 1980s.

It has made its name with its antivirus software, which has become ubiquitous as computer viruses become an increasingly widespread security threat. In 1994, he resigned as executive director, selling his stake to McAfee for a reported $ 100 million, a fortune he nearly lost during the financial crisis.

“Although John McAfee founded the company, he has not been associated with our company in any capacity for more than 25 years,” said McAfee, which is listed on public markets at the end of last year. “That said, our thoughts go out to his family and those close to him.”

Outside of the corporate world, the billionaire has shown a tendency to risk. A decade after his departure from McAfee, he pioneered a sport called “aerotrekking,” which involved flying high-speed microlight aircraft over a desert runway. When the tragedy struck in 2007, and a client of his airborne adventure died in an accident on his New Mexico property, he soon left for Belize.

Here, he took up residence in a “party palace,” embarking on a playboy lifestyle of drugs, weapons, and girlfriends. Even that didn’t last long: in 2012, his neighbor, U.S. citizen Gregory Faull, was shot dead in the head and McAfee was called a “person of interest” in the case. Denying any involvement, he fled to neighboring Guatemala, where he was later arrested and deported to the United States. He was never charged in connection with the murder.

An un excused libertarian he said conducted interviewed in the press with a loaded pistol in each hand to feel “comfortable,” McAfee also embarked on a quixotic political career. He first announced a candidacy for the White House in 2015 with his own newly formed party, the Cyber ​​Party, before then – unsuccessfully – seeking the nomination of the Liberation Party in the 2016 race.

“His main mantra in life was freedom,” said Zoltan Istvan, the founder of the Transhumanist Party, who met McAfee on the campaign road in 2015.

“He knew he was eccentric,” added Istvan, his public figure. “He liked being a maverick and he liked attention. . . But when you sat down to dinner and there was none [journalists] here to cover it up, it’s just a really good conversation with a guy who is incredibly bright ”.

McAfee told Spanish courts last week that his foray into politics happened because he had discovered corruption in the U.S. tax system, and “considered that only through political action could the tax authority get rid of [this]».

McAfee shopping in South Beach, Miami, in 2012

McAfee Shopping in South Beach, Miami, in 2012 © TNS / ABACA / Reuters

McAfee at an internet security conference in China in 2016

McAfee at an Internet security conference in China in 2016 © Ng Han Guan / AP

A deep mistrust in state surveillance and in financial institutions has also attracted him to the free world of cryptocurrencies. He was quick to become one of the first and most vocal supporters of virtual currency, promising in 2017 that he would eat his own penis “on national television” if the bitcoin price did not reach $ 500,000 by mid-2020.

His propensity to talk about cryptocurrency projects on Twitter has also attracted the attention of regulators. In March, he was charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission with fraud. According to u complaint, McAfee has selected a number of small cryptocurrencies – including dogecoin – to be promoted on social media platforms such as “currency of the day” or “currency of the week” in early 2018, including them in advance and incoming once the market has settled on its recommendations.

McAfee and others also earned $ 11m by announcing several initial coin offerings on Twitter, while they did not publicly disclose that they were paid for the promotional work, regulators said.

In what should become his last voyage, McAfee fled the United States in 2019 on his yacht after being accused by a grand jury of hiding millions of dollars in taxable income between 2016 and 2018. The money is were earned, in part, from their cryptocurrency promotion and selling the rights to their life story, and it was hidden from the frontmen.

Although he was finally arrested in Spain in October 2020, he has not yet given up the fight. At a Spanish high court hearing last week, he said U.S. tax prosecutions had “political motivation,” since he had used his political platform to “denounce corruption” in the Internal Revenue Service.

But the court rejected his arguments and on Wednesday morning approved an extradition request from the United States, and McAfee had the possibility of the rest of his life behind the gifts.

He is survived by his wife Janice, a former sex worker who campaigned for his release under the slogan “Free McAfee.”

Even in death, McAfee was remarkable at the spark of a media frenzy. For months, he had mythologized a potential departure from the world at the hands of the authorities. In an October tweet, he wrote, “Know that if you hang me … it won’t be my fault.”

Around the time of his death, Wednesday, a post appeared on his Instagram that simply displayed the letter “Q” – an apparent reference to the QAnon conspiracy cult, unleashing its own wave of conspiracies.

“All power is corrupt,” he wrote in his last Twitter message Friday. “Be careful that powers allow an exercise democracy.”



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