Eccentric 'Cybersecurity Legend' John McAfee Offers To Decrypt San Bernardino iPhone For FBI And Save America
Oh, where to begin. Let's start with the controversial iPhone, the one that was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters on that horrific day last December in which 14 people were killed and 22 others seriously injured. As part of an ongoing investigation into the terrorist activity that left more than a dozen people dead, a federal judge this week ordered Apple to help the FBI break into the handset, which is locked and encrypted.
That's easier said than done. The iPhone in questions is locked with a passcode, which itself wouldn't be too difficult to thwart using brute force techniques, except that there are safeguards in place to erase the data after ten failed login attempts. This is where things get tricky.
Apple has within its technical capabilities to design a firmware update that would disable the safeguard and thus allow the FBI to ping the iPhone with millions of possible combinations until it guesses the right one. However, Apple is so far unwilling to walk down that slippery slope for fear that it would set a precedent that could later be abused.
"We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone," Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in a strongly worded open letter opposing the court order.
Apple's stance is that once a "backdoor" is created, it would serve as a master key to millions of iPhone devices and could be used haphazardly. On the flip side, the FBI contends that it's only interested in one particular iPhone and that it's a matter of national security.
So, what does this have to do with John McAfee, founder of the self-titled antivirus software that now belongs to Intel? In a lengthy op-ed piece for Business Insider, McAfee waxed on about this being a "black day and the beginning of the end of the U.S. as a world power." He called the FBI's demands "laughable" and likened called claim that a backdoor would only be used once a "bizarre twist of logic."
McAfee didn't just criticize the FBI, he offered a potential solution—let him and his team of hackers break into the iPhone without any help from Apple.
"With all due respect to Tim Cook and Apple, I work with a team of the best hackers on the planet. These hackers attend Defcon in Las Vegas, and they are legends in their local hacking groups, such as HackMiami. They are all prodigies, with talents that defy normal human comprehension," McAfee said.
You might be wondering why these hacking all-stars don't already work for the FBI if they're truly capable of what he says they are. Well, the reason is because "the FBI will not hire anyone with a 24-inch purple mohawk, 10-gauge piercings, and a tattooed face who demands to smoke weed while working and won't work for less than half-million dollars a year." Right.
Eccentric rant aside, McAfee's offer is simple—give him three weeks and he will, "free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone" with his team of hackers. He'll do it using mostly social engineering.
"If you accept my offer, then you will not need to ask Apple to place a back door in its product, which will be the beginning of the end of America," McAffe says. And if you doubt his credentials, he suggests doing a Google search for "cybersecurity legend."
So, uh, ball's in your court FBI.