Exclusive: John McAfee’s ultimate hack

2013-10-23 15.27.00Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and this story is about as strange as it could be. For all the computer virus infections that John McAfee’s software may have prevented over the years, there has been one situation the man himself was unable to escape unscathed.  He may however be having his day now.  This Op/Ed is based on my first hand interviews with McAfee.

McAfee wants to tell his story.  He has shared bits of what has happened through news stories here and there, but sifting through all the ‘millionaire gone mad’ angles that have emerged, the essence is easily lost.

McAfee has stumbled onto a layered story of government corruption, of criminal gangs gone wild, of murder for hire, of the illegal selling of passports and a complex history of public opinions.

McAfee’s story has taken on more form over time, yet it hasn’t ever really changed and reflecting on this collective information what I found most compelling going into this was the amount of information from the story that were easily verified.  There is a situation here that includes stories about Belize, stories about its government – real stories and real people doing terrible things, all of which seemingly corroborate McAfee’s continued tale.  Things only begin within the series of events that led to the raid on his property.

This is the story that few know or have given any attention to.  The raid on his Belize property, the murder of Greg Faull and everything that led up to it are still a part of this, but this story is even stranger, bigger, and more nefarious than you would ever think.  Welcome to McAfee’s life after his “last stand.”   It’s a story of how he hacked an entire country.

Games of power in Belize

 

John Mcafee -Eddie MizeAfter reading into a number of reports on criminal activities in Belize, it was hard to believe why anybody would risk living down there, this is where I started.  Crime is rampant, violence is everywhere and corruption, poverty and a lack of education are big issues.  There are massive drug routes that go through the country, with aid and support of major drug cartels.  They work in coordination with government officials, they also work through a network of intimidation, payouts and murder.  The Gang Suppression Unit (GSU), which was behind the raid on McAfee’s compound is the very same crew whose officials are very openly tied to and associate with members of the cartel.

This is not at all about small crime, this is big crime.  McAfee applied first world principles to a third world country – and things just got away from him.

McAfee states that his actions in Belize from the time after the raid were in response to what other corroborate as a period of very open intimidation.  Everywhere he went the GSU were present, a message that was designed to let McAfee know he was being watched.  What they did not know yet was that McAfee had deployed a replicating key-logging software onto government and police computers he had donated.   He was attempting to find hard evidence that the government had illegally instigated the raid.  What he found was far more.

After some time, McAfee and his crew had full awareness of what the government was doing, who it was calling and so on with full-on camera, full-on microphone and access to everything.  When the police would organize for McAfee to get ‘picked up’, always at night, McAfee was onto it, and he’d disappear before they could arrive, anywhere in town.  The cat and mouse game went on for some time until the discovery of McAfee’s surveillance, and later the murder of Gregory Faull, which as the public well knows, McAfee has been “wanted for questioning” in the case.

From McAfee’s perspective this now meant that he could now be picked up in the day and his last-second getaways enabled by his own surveillance would no longer last.  The rest is history: McAfee escapes to Guatemala, and is deported off to the U.S., eventually arriving in Portland (where you would think most people would settle down).

McAfee is Dead – Keep Portland Weird

 

Portland’s slogan is “Keep Portland Weird”.  What happens next is pretty faithful to that.  For the first time in the history of Belize, its national soccer team, a group of part-time athletes ranked at best 128th in the world gains entry into the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup to take on the US National team.  They are traveling to Portland Oregon.  It was a slaughter, a 6-1 US victory in a game which the US admittedly did not play their best.  It’s an unlikely and interesting coincidence at the same time.

A message at C2SV

 

woman1

Woman from Belize gives John McAfee a message at C2SV

Mystery man spotted by McAfee's security

Mystery man spotted by McAfee’s security

Fast forward to late September 2013, McAfee travels down against the advice of his security team to San Jose for the C2SV Technology Conference.  Site security insists he use a certain entrance, he refuses and enters through the main entrance.  After he is done with his “Fireside Chat” and he is talking to some people in the audience his security spots a man who is watching him and watching McAfee.

Suddenly, a Belizean woman reaches out to McAfee and offers to cook him a Belizean meal at her home.  McAfee has no idea who she is or why this offer is made.  She insists.  She then hands McAfee a large manila envelope, then she and the mysterious man who also looks like he may be from Belize, leave.

Inside the envelope, a picture of a door, just your everyday average door, a message meant to intimidate McAfee somehow.  McAfee sent the photo of the man to friends in Belize who identified the man as a cousin to one his ex-employees.

McAfee is dead

 

Then in November 2013, news emerged that McAfee was hit with an eviction and protective order.  It is here back at home that McAfee and his wife Janice report that an attempt was made on their lives.  There he reports that late one evening two police motorcycles come down the street, followed by a black SUV-type vehicle which was followed by a garbage truck.

It’s not garbage day.  McAfee and his wife make a run for the parking garage and hide for hours while voices and footsteps all around indicate they are looking for him, thinking he is armed.  McAfee and his wife think about running, but there’s only one way out and it is well covered.  As dawn breaks, the garbage truck collects the contents of a garbage bin where they think he is hiding in the parking structure and crushes it, and they leave.

McAfee collects his stuff, runs into the property manager who has strangely come in much earlier than usual.  As McAfee describes it “it was like he saw a ghost.  We asked him to show us the surveillance tapes and they have strangely disappeared.”  Shortly thereafter we have the protective order, which would ostensibly have made him come back to answer questions in Portland.

They have been on the run ever since and he has been tracked throughout the country.  He was meant to disappear.  A day and a half before this now-scrubbed Irish media source said McAfee had died.  Later that same day, McAfee’s security guards were arrested, so he was without security for that one single day.

McAfee was pronounced dead at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, where he was discovered by security personnel in a semi-conscious state following what authorities believe was a “cocaine and alcohol-fueled binge,” according to the report. He slipped into unconsciousness shortly after and could not be revived.

Coincidence?  McAfee doesn’t think so.  One has to question why a news source would have a story ready to go, that detailed and published at this point in time.  McAfee figures it must have been a distraction had the attempt to make him “disappear” the next day been successful.

Who wants McAfee dead?

 

The line forms to the left and the list is long.  It starts with his former girlfriend Amy Emshwiller – who at the very least tried to kill him at one point, leaving him rather deaf in one ear after a bullet missed his head.  Add to that list various quacks out there, a cartel or two, a list of Belizean officials and you start to get a good idea of what McAfee’s story entails.

IMG_20140301_162722_494For now, McAfee has set up camp out deep amongst the thick woods in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the eastern United States, linked to the world with redundant satellite internet connections, reminiscent of his early days at McAfee Associates, where he set up a mobile virus response unit.

He’s actually tracking and researching the elements of his story out here, and still working on the launch of his new company, FutureTense.  Here, McAfee is putting together the puzzle of who wants him dead, who is tailing him, and who are the people behind it all.

“As crazy as it sounds, it’s real life.  It’s my life.  But we’re living in a crazy age, don’t you think?  People are crazy to accept this surveillance we live under, the freedoms we are giving up and how much money is being wasted.  That’s crazy – I’m just a wealthy man – formerly wealthy man that was in the most beautiful place in the world, but it was the most corrupt, dirty form of government and law enforcement you could ever imagine.” – John McAfee

Putting the pieces together

 

IMG_20140228_143018_621I went there to find out more and over the course of three days we get through a tremendous amount of research, going through mountains of documents, including internal memos from the Belizean government and secretly recorded discussions with government officials, and troves of evidence in a quest for the truth.

Over a series of calls with private investigators, associates and even officials inside the Belizean government that are loyal to McAfee, feeding him information, there’s testimony of plots, of murders happening right now, of officials causing trouble for anyone that even briefly dealt with McAfee.  A call with a private investigator reports that a contract was put out on McAfee’s life while he was in Portland worth $2 million.

Now somebody facilitated this contract, which according to research was carried out by potential members of the Sinaloa cartel.  McAfee’s Belizean insiders confirm many details, complete with names, places and dates.  The same investigator also reveals that a second contract had been put out, worth $650,000.  The question is if these things are true, and as McAfee reports he has been on the run, accosted by strangers in the most unusual of places, in coincidence after coincidence across the country, then who may have facilitated these contracts.

It would have to be somebody with extreme wealth and political connections, able to pay people off to keep their mouths shut every step of the way.

In the meantime, McAfee trains to keep alive until the threat is neutralized.

Passports for sale: Infiltrating the US

 

The trail turns to a pair of American businessmen, one of which was implicated in a forceful kidnapping in California, the other, who with a massive network of hundreds of shell corporations has managed to keep his profile rather quiet.  Tiny little misspellings and variations of his name adds to the complexity of companies he has opened and closed.  At least one in Belize, and many others in the Middle East.  The web of connections is seemingly complex, but simple at the same time.

The paradoxes are plentiful.  Both of these businessmen are extremely wealthy, yet both own each other’s California properties through a myriad of trusts.  This network of corporations has a consistent membership of officers that consists of a repeated presence of a disgraced attorney once arrested in a congressional blackmail case and a pattern of names that come up again and again in different forms, in different companies, in different states.

Both businessmen reportedly associate with high-ranking Belizean officials and members of the same cartels that are tied to certain powerful officials.  A big part of this American fortune is amassed through the ownership of a chain of fast food restaurants, which sounds innocuous enough.  However once you look into the fact that some have been requesting visas from the US government with the requirements of Arabic and Farsi-speaking candidates, it takes on a new level of mystery.

So you have chicken restaurants that serve Americans asking for visas based on foreign language requirements; somewhat odd by any measure.   One of these American businessmen attempted to illegally purchase his own Belizean passport, a fact that was widely reported in the Belizean press.  The details of this investigation, including names are mostly already public and they will be coming forward.

Corruption in Belize

 

1390479_10202071436817806_145174689_nAccusations of corruption in the Belizean government, selling passports to people have never touched the country are not difficult to find.

Chinese nationals with Belizean passports.  Middle-Easterners with Belizean passports.

McAfee has found recordings through his spyware network that include the actual price negotiations of what these passports should sell for.  From Belize’s News Five report:

News Five has obtained a copy of an internal report compiled on the Won Hong Kim immigration scandal. Kim, A South Korean national imprisoned in Taiwan, got his nationality certificate and Belizean passport in September, 2013. It was subsequently revealed that both documents were obtained through fraudulent means, since Kim was behind bars, and never set foot in Belize. The man who signed both the nationality certificate and the passport recommendation, and indeed pushed the documents through processing, was former Minister of State with responsibility for immigration, Elvin Penner. For his role, Penner was asked to step down from his government responsibilities on September nineteenth. Exactly four months after, it has become evident that the U.D.P. official enjoys very high-level protection. Despite at least three alleged investigations, only three public officers, two of them junior level, have been targeted.

They brag about the things they do, it’s nothing to them to say they are so connected and above the law, look at how powerful I am, then deny all charges as though they’re outrageous.

That was the end of the line and when McAfee put out this video:

Now, with the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, he feels that a prime agent of at least one open attempt on his life will be gone for a long time.  The Sinaloa Cartel has a network of criminal activities up and down the North and South American continents including drugs, guns, murder, human trafficking and yes, assassinations.

McAfee-SUV

McAfee’s security vehicle

That’s the story McAfee is coming out with today.  He has been running for his life, he’s donned disguises, he’s criss-crossed the country in a specialized security vehicle and he’s been following leads in his story.  All while launching a company.

It all started when he went a little too far and found out a little too much when he was down in Belize.  Still able to collect data through his network of informants, investigators and spyware system, he now has collected just about everything.  It’s that information that he feels they are still hoping will be silenced, or that they can at least continue to echo that somehow he is a madman and this is all a fallacy.  However, there is a tremendous amount of public evidence that shows substantial veracity to these claims.  It is hoped that by collecting this public evidence and reporting it that the public will begin to ask questions and perhaps any further reporters, not about McAfee, but about what exactly is going on in Belize.

What is going on at the Mexican border?  Why hasn’t this surfaced thus far?  Why is this considered standard public knowledge down there, yet this has no play here in the States?  That’s why we’re putting together an investigative report that will be published in the coming weeks.

What is real, what is fact, and what is not?  Stay tuned.

Keep reading SiliconANGLE for the rest of the posts the McAfee series.

John McAfee’s Ultimate Hack.

Deconstructing McAfee.

John McAfee in Belize, land of pirates.

More to come…

Photo courtesy of Arthur Saldivar/Facebook
McAfee art by Eddie Mize

About John Casaretto

SiliconANGLE's CyberSecurity Editor - Have a story tip or feedback? Please reach out to me! Security is as critical as ever and our mission is to uncover those stories that will help our industry be more secure.