John McAfee on his FBI iPhone hack offer: "Our government is illiterate in cybersecurity"


Here's one that will be of interest to anyone that cares about computer security. Our sister site Maximum PC recently spoke to John McAfee, the antivirus creator who became infamous a few years ago for his adventures in Belize, about his recent offer to help the FBI break into the iPhone owned by the San Bernadino shooter. McAfee hopes that by hacking the phone himself, Apple will no longer be compelled to create a backdoor.

The conversation is fascinating, though you may wish to pop a tinfoil hat on first.

"I think our government is illiterate in cybersecurity," said McAfee. "The Chinese and Russians have the ability to bring our society to its knees. With the push of a button, the Chinese can terminate our electrical production and put us permanently without power. This is a known fact in the hacking community. We are so far behind that it's incomprehensible that we still call ourselves a world power."

When asked whether accessing American phones would really be a priority for Russia or China, McAfee said absolutely. "I would say that it's extremely high. And in fact, I guarantee you, that the Chinese and Russians are praying on their knees now, that Apple gives in. In fact, they probably would pay a hundred billion dollars to Tim Cook to cave in. Why? Because it would get them total access, total control, to everything in America.

"Now the FBI thinks that they have it. But the FBI and the NSA don't even have the data reduction capacity. Sure they can tap everybody's phone, but there's so much data they can't refine and use it. Trust me. The Chinese can. They're that far ahead. So, they would love for Apple to cave in. They would love for a federal judge to say, "Yes, [Apple], do this," because that means they just won the cyberwar. Why? Because every man and woman in America, carries [a smartphone]."

computer virus!

As for the security of our trusty PCs? McAfee didn't have much to say other than that he thinks PCs are going away in favor of smartphones.

If you're interested in learning cybersecurity yourself McAfee recommends starting with the mind. "Study psychology first," he said. "Learn neurolinguistic programming. It has nothing to do with computers, but it really does—it has everything to do with hacking and security in the modern world, because ninety-nine percent of hacks are human-engineering hacks. I know great hackers who can't code. Literally."

We are the enemy to the government.

McAfee also had some choice words about the US government and the TSA: "Our government has become paranoid and sick and twisted. We have become the enemy. We are the enemy to the government."

John McAfee is running to be the Libertarian nominee for the 2016 United States presidential election. You can read his full interview with Maximum PC here.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).