John McAfee—An Enigmatic Life
McAfee Corp. is an American global computer security software company headquartered in San Jose, CA and is part of the Intel Security Division after its sale to Intel. Little is known about the giant of a man behind the company and its roots in the software world. John David McAfee founded and led the company that made the iconic McAfee anti-virus. The tech world has its fair share of unique, eccentric personalities, but he stands the tallest amongst them all.
He went from being a cyber security revolutionary to selling cyber security ideas to an alleged murderer to dying of a much-deliberated suicide. John McAfee’s story is a roller coaster of events that normal people could never experience in their lifetime.
The Rapid Rise and the Great Fall
John McAfee started out as a computer programmer and a businessman. As a child, he grew up in a hostile environment. His father was an alcoholic and shot himself dead when John was 15. Subsequently, John fell into drugs and alcohol to escape from his family troubles.
He was a gifted child—even with his addictions. He got a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics but could not complete his PhD due to his erratic behaviour and unusual mindset. He worked for NASA in New York City from 1968 to 1970 on the Apollo Program. Afterwards, he took up a job in Univac, apart from working other menial jobs. In 1987, McAfee founded McAfee Associates Inc., which marketed his code—their first anti-virus software—to the market. He provided the users with a service they were in desperate need of and the sales skyrocketed. His attempts in making people aware of the dangers of computer viruses were so successful that people grew extremely wary of these viruses, which in turn generated millions in sales of the anti-virus.
In 1994, he sold his share of the company and cut ties with the very corporation that had built his career. He then started and took ownership of various failed companies and programs like PowWow and MGT. McAfee later claimed that “anti-virus software is dead, it no longer works” and further added, “the new paradigm is to stop the hacker from getting in.” He was a visionary on his own terms but lost his standing in the world due to his lack of appreciable success.
Security Sentinel to Security Traitor
On 12 November 2012, Gregory Viant Faull was found dead due to a gunshot wound at his home on the island of Ambergris Caye, the largest island in Belize. Gregory happened to be McAfee’s neighbour, which had made him a prime suspect in his murder. McAfee had refused to cooperate with the Belize Police and evaded questioning. He later revealed in a Wired interview that he was afraid that the police would kill him without any proof. Even Belize’s prime minister, Dean Barrow called him “extremely paranoid, even bonkers.” He got neurotic to a point where he believed that the death of his neighbour was an attempt on his life, which due to some confusion, led to the end of Faull.
Subsequently, he escaped Belize illegally to a Guatemalan resort, where he hoped for political support. He was later arrested for illegally entering Guatemala and was prepared to be deported back to Belize. McAfee suffered from two minor heart attacks in the detention centre and was hospitalised. In later years, he publicly accepted that it was just a ruse to prevent his deportation to Belize.
McAfee For President!
McAfee first ran for president in 2016, forming a new party called The Cyber Party. But then, on 24 December 2015, he re-announced his candidacy bid saying that he would instead seek the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. He wanted to introduce cryptocurrencies to the masses as it was a field he was interested in. In 2020, he again chose to run for President as a Libertarian. He stated that he would continue his campaign ‘in exile’, following reports that he, his wife, and four campaign staff were indicted for tax-related felonies by the IRS.
Both his attempts to Presidency were in vain. The candidature and subsequent support generated for a person with lots of money and very little moral standing, not to mention a dubious past, makes a statement on how the rich continue to pull the strings on the leadership of a developed country like the United States.
Twitter–McAfee’s Only Hope
McAfee’s tweets seem like they pop right out of a madman’s mind. They vary from him accusing the US Government of attempted murder to him belittling his rape accusatory. McAfee has stated on multiple occasions that he has no wealth left. He also tweeted regularly about the wonders of cryptocurrency. Being a huge supporter of bitcoin, in 2017 he guaranteed that BTC would reach $500,000 by December 2020.
He was happy with the way his life had turned out and regretted nothing. He had on numerous occasions went on record to say that he was fulfilled with however his life had turned out and was happy with the outcome. McAfee claimed he received threats from the US officials that they were coming to kill him. He even got himself a “$Whackd” tattoo and said, “I got a tattoo today, just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn’t. I was whacked. Check my right arm.”
Drugs and Money Laundering
McAfee lived a colourful life—he was known for his erratic sexual desires as much as he was known for his accomplishments in the cybersecurity world. With money came great power and McAfee used this power to live large and run entire towns in Belize. His unapologetic hedonistic personality had gained the attention of the media. Referred to as “Belize’s Donald Trump”, McAfee had relations with various women and had numerous teenage “girlfriends” around him most time, whom he supported financially.
In 2020, McAfee was captured in Spain by the United States Department of Justice for tax evasion. He allegedly earned millions of dollars from 2014 to 2018 as he failed to file income tax returns. McAfee evaded tax liability by having his income paid into bank accounts and cryptocurrency exchange accounts in the names of a nominee. He was also charged with concealing assets, including a yacht and real estate property, in the names of others. McAfee also reportedly talked about “taking over the Belize government.”
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) slammed further charges against McAfee and his bodyguard. They promoted specific “initial coin offerings” (ICOs)—a type of crowdfunding—to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, playing the recommendations off as impartial investment advice without disclosing that he was being paid to do so. McAfee was jailed in Spain, pending extradition to the United States. On 23 June 2021, the Spanish National Court authorised his extradition to face charges in Tennessee.
The Climactic End
McAfee was arrested in Spain while trying to flee the country. He was looking to face up to 30 years in a Tennessee jail due to all the felonies he had committed. Awaiting his extraction to the United States, John McAfee committed suicide in his cell room in Spain on 23 June 2021.
Looking back at such a wild life, it is bewildering how McAfee managed to escape the law for so long—with harassment and murder charges dangling over his head, he was able to return to the United States and carry on living his life normally. Many supported his claims until the end, while many believe that he was murdered by one of the governments pursuing him. McAfee lived a non-apologetic and open life filled with women, arms, and intoxicants. The mysteries of his life and the conspiracy of his death will forever remain shrouded in secrecy.
Featured Image Credits: India Today