The crazy life of former fugitive and cybersecurity legend John McAfee

By Basoodler · Jul 2, 2016 · ·
  1. Basoodler
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    John McAfee is an enigma.

    He built one of the biggest antivirus companies to date, and yet it's what happened after this chapter of his life that made him a legend.

    McAfee once lived in Belize and allegedly got caught up with drugs and other illegal activities.

    Since then, he's made a bid to run for president, founded his own political party, and was recently named the chairman and CEO of a mysterious new company.

    Here's a look into who the man once was, what he became, and where he is now.

    Trust us — it's a wild ride.

    John McAfee was born in the UK in the mid-1940s. His parents moved to Roanoke, Virginia, when he was young.

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    His early life was likely tough for the young man. His father, who worked as a road surveyor, was an alcoholic. When McAfee was 15, his father committed suicide, a fact McAfee says he wakes up with every day.

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    McAfee went to Roanoke College, where he also took up drinking. But the younger McAfee was a shrewd entrepreneur at a young age. His first business sold magazines door to door, which he says made him a small fortune.

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    He began working at a company that coded punch-card systems in the late '60s. This taught him the basics of early computing. Using this information, he landed a job at Missouri Pacific Railroad, where he helped the company use a newfangled IBM computer system to help calibrate train schedules.

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    While at Missouri Pacific Railroad he began to dabble with harder drugs. He would go to work many days while tripping on LSD, according to Wired. One day he was sold a bag of a psychedelic known as DMT. As Wired reported, McAfee snorted a line of the drug, felt nothing, and then decided to do the whole bag. Then all hell broke loose. He freaked out, ran outside, and hid behind a trashcan.

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    People asked him questions, but he didn’t understand what they were saying. The computer was spitting out train schedules to the moon; he couldn’t make sense of it. He ended up behind a garbage can in downtown St. Louis, hearing voices and desperately hoping that nobody would look at him. He never went back to Missouri Pacific. Part of him believes he’s still on that trip, that everything since has been one giant hallucination and that one day he’ll snap out of it and find himself back on his couch in St. Louis, listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

    McAfee moved to Silicon Valley in the 1970s. He held numerous jobs at various tech companies (including a stint at NASA’s Institute for Space Studies), all the while abusing drugs and alcohol. It wasn’t until 1983 that he got sober. He was working at the company Omex and found his daily routine to be snorting coke at his desk and drinking a bottle of scotch, according to Wired. He says he felt alone and scared, and finally decided to seek help.

    In the 1980s, McAfee worked at Lockheed. At the time, computers were still relatively new. In 1986 the first computer virus hit PCs. He read about these new programs that infiltrated computers and decided to start his own company to fight back.

    McAfee Associates took off. By the end of the 1980s, the company was making $5 million a year, and some of the biggest companies in the world were using his antivirus platform.

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    McAfee quickly became even more successful, largely because of a computer virus called Michelangelo that hit the scene in 1992. McAfee called it one of the worst viruses to date, estimating it would infect as many as 5 million computers. At the time, computer antivirus platforms weren’t a product most people bought. Thanks to Michelangelo, there was a growing fever to protect computers from the virus.

    Though only some tens of thousands of computers were infected, Michelangelo propelled McAfee to go public, and it turned into a multimillion-dollar business.

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    In 1994, McAfee set his sights for greener pastures and resigned from McAfee. Two years later he sold his shares, which gave him about $100 million.

    Following his resignation, McAfee kept a relatively low profile. He would give young startups advice, lecture at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and also work on projects of his own. He’s worked on two social-network projects called PowWow and Tribal Voice, although neither hit the mainstream.

    In the late 2000s, McAfee decided to sell his land and move to Belize. There he wanted to go into the world of antibiotics. He believed that with the help of microbiologist Allison Adonizio he could build a product that used plants to combat illnesses. The company was called Quorumex.

    But things in Belize got hairy. He became convinced that he was being watched all the time, according to Wired.

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    In Belize he frequented a saloon known as Lover’s Bar. He would reportedly go there everyday and watch the people go in and out. He slowly withdrew from everything else. He became obsessed watching the people in this poor part of town. After six months he wrote that he no longer had any connection to society.

    “My fragile connection with the world of polite society has, without a doubt, been severed,” he wrote. “My attire would rank me among the worst-dressed Tijuana panhandlers. My hygiene is no better. Yesterday, for the first time, I urinated in public, in broad daylight.”

    In 2012, he was considered a "person of interest" when his neighbor Gregory Faull was shot to death, according to Reuters. McAfee fled after being questioned by the Belize government.

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    McAfee was arrested in Guatemala. This could have reportedly been because of Vice, which flew down two reporters to interview him. By mistake, Vice posted pictures of McAfee that still had GPS coordinates attached to them. Shortly after these events, Guatemalan police caught up with McAfee, arresting him on charges of illegal entry to the country. While detained, McAfee suffered a series of heart-related health issues. Ultimately, he was expelled from Guatemala and sent back to the US.

    Following this, a media frenzy ensued. Everyone wanted to know who he was, where he was going, and if he was crazy.

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    McAfee didn't make things any easier for himself. In 2013, he uploaded a bizarre video entitled "How To Uninstall McAfee Antivirus." It showed him surrounded by scantily clad women while trying to uninstall the software he invented, which he denounced after leaving the company. The video also showed guns and allusions to drugs and drug use, although it was undoubtedly meant to be some sort of parody.

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    In August, McAfee was arrested on charges of DUI and handgun possession. In a Facebook post, he admitted to driving under the influence of Xanax but blamed his doctor for not specifying that driving while under the influence of the drug could be dangerous.

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    McAfee has kept a sporadic public persona. He reportedly lives in Portland, Oregon. He now sometimes blogs about security, privacy, and freedom.

    In September 2015, he filed paperwork to run in the 2016 presidential race and announced he would form his own political party, "The Cyber Party." He introduced the party with a YouTube campaign video.

    McAfee took his campaign to the Libertarian Party National Convention, but failed to secure the nomination. In the end, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won the party's nomination

    In May, McAfee was appointed chairman and CEO of a mysterious tech company, MGT Technologies. The company originally invested in daily fantasy and mobile games, but recently pivoted to cybersecurity. The company also announced its investment in a tiny drugmaker unrelated to cybersecurity.

    Julia Naftulin

    further reading
    The in house Drugs-forum McAfee adventure thread

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  1. Basoodler
    I would love to hang out with this dude lol.

    I wonder why they left out his bath salt use and use of internet drug forums in Belize?
  2. AKA_freckles
    I can't believe Vice did that to him.

    Thanks for the article Bas. I've always wondered about this guy.

    Also, how does one pronounce "McAfee'?
    I've always heard it pronounced MAC a fee, but once someone told me its MiC a Fee
  3. Basoodler
    He uses " Mac-A-Fee "
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