Has John McAfee Been Caught Lying About Hacking Again?
Ashley Allen / 8 years ago
Yesterday, reports emerged that attention-seeking billionaire John McAfee had hacked the end-to-end encryption of popular messaging app WhatsApp. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, McAfee and four members of his team managed to intercept and read a WhatsApp message, sent between two Android phones in New York, from a secluded server base in Colorado.
Following the supposed encryption hack, McAfee put the blame at Google’s feet, accusing the company of negligence for allowing a “serious design flaw” within Android that allowed him and his team to bypass WhatsApp’s encryption.
“I have been warning the world for years that we are teetering on the edge of an abyss, that our cyber security paradigms no longer function, and that chaos will descend if something is not done” McAfee declared after the stunt. “The fundamental operating system (Android), used by 90% of the world, and that should be the first bulwark against malicious intrusion, is flawed. Should I not bring this to the world’s attention through a dramatic demonstration? Do I not owe it to the world?”
As an extension of this demonstration, Gizmodo reports that McAfee offered to send out phones to reporters and journalists, informing them that, if they used the phone to send a WhatsApp message, he could access and read it.
“[John McAfee] was offering to a different couple of news organizations to mail them some phones, have people show up, and then demonstrate with those two phones that [McAfee] in a remote location would be able to read the message as it was sent across the phones,” cybersecurity expert Dan Guido said, after he was contacted by journalists trying to verify McAfee’s claims. “I advised the reporter to go out and buy their own phones, because even though they come in a box it’s very easy to get some saran wrap and a hair dryer to rebox them.”
However, McAfee’s method of hacking WhatsApp involved Android phones that included pre-installed malware. Initial reports suggest that McAfee had claimed to have hacked WhatsApp directly but, when challenged on the matter, reluctantly changed his story to blame Google and Android instead.
If true, this would not be the first time McAfee has been fast and loose with the truth. During the debacle between Apple and the FBI over the encryption on San Bernardino suspect Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, McAfee offered his services, telling the press that he and his team could crack the smartphone’s encryption in a matter of days. Later, in an interview with The Daily Dot, McAfee admitted that his claims were not entirely truthful, and were designed to “get a s***load of public attention.”
Following Gizmodo’s accusations, McAfee responded with a written statement:
“Here is my formal response – written:
I, perhaps wrongly, assume that people actually read articles that interest them rather than just headlines. If you actually READ the article, which you apparently did not, I made it absolutely CLEAR that was was NOT a WhatsApp issue. It was a Google issue. You slam me for tweeting an article, who’s headline you do not like. Surely, the article is what is important, not the headline. If I am wrong, them we as a society, are fucked Please quote me word for word if you have the fucking balls. Which, I know in advance, you do not.
Of course the phones had malware on them. How that malware got there is the story, which we will release after speaking with Google. It involves a serious flaw in the Android architecture.”