He is also a political activist who sought the Libertarian Party nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election, losing to former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. McAfee also has interests in smartphone apps, cryptocurrency, yoga, and all-natural antibiotics. He resided for a number of years in Belize, but after several disputes with the authorities in Belize and Guatemala, he returned to the United States in 2013.
McAfee was born in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom on September 18, 1945 on a U.S. Army base to an American father, who was stationed there and British mother, and raised in Salem, Virginia. He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1967 from Roanoke College, which subsequently awarded him an honorary Sc.D. degree in 2008.
McAfee was employed as a programmer by NASA's Institute for Space Studies in New York City from 1968 to 1970. From there he went to Univac as a software designer and later to Xerox as an operating system architect. In 1978 he joined Computer Sciences Corporation as a software consultant. He worked for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton from 1980–1982. In the 1980s, while employed by Lockheed, McAfee received a copy of the Brain computer virus and began developing software to combat viruses.
In 1987 McAfee founded McAfee Associates, a computer anti-virus company. In 1989, he quit Lockheed and began working full-time at McAfee Associates, which he initially operated from his home in Santa Clara, California. The company was incorporated in Delaware in 1992, and McAfee resigned from the company in 1994. Two years after McAfee Associates went public, McAfee sold his remaining stake in the company.
Network Associates was formed in 1997 as a merger of McAfee Associates and Network General. The Network Associates company name was retained for seven years, when it was renamed McAfee, Inc. In August 2010, Intel bought McAfee, maintaining the separate branding, until January 2014, when it announced that McAfee related products will be marketed as Intel Security. McAfee expressed his pleasure at his name no longer being associated with the software.
Other business ventures that were founded by McAfee include Tribal Voice, which developed one of the first instant messaging programs, PowWow. In 2000, John McAfee invested in and joined the board of directors of Zone Labs, makers of firewall software, prior to its acquisition by Check Point Software in 2003.
In August 2009, The New York Times reported that McAfee's personal fortune had declined to $4 million from a peak of $100 million, the effect of the global financial crisis and recession on his investments.
In 2009, McAfee was interviewed in Belize for the CNBC special "The Bubble Decade", in which it was reported that he had invested in and/or built many mansions in the USA that went unsold when the 2007 global recession hit. The report also discussed his quest to produce plants for possible medicinal uses on his land in Belize.
Beginning in February 2010, McAfee started a new venture in the field of bacterial quorum sensing. His company QuorumEx has its headquarters in Belize and is working towards producing commercial all natural antibiotics based on anti-quorum sensing technology.
In 2013 McAfee started the company Future Tense Central, to produce a secure computer network device called the D-Central. By 2016 it was also serving as an incubator.
In February 2014, McAfee announced Cognizant, an application for smartphones, which displays information about the permissions of other installed applications. On April 3, 2014, John McAfee rebranded Cognizant as DCentral 1, and released an Android version for free on Google Play.
At the DEF CON conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in August 2014, he warned Americans not to use smartphones, suggesting apps are used to spy on clueless consumers who do not read privacy user agreements.
As of January 2016, he is also the chief evangelist for security startup Everykey.
In February 2016 McAfee received media attention by publicly volunteering to decrypt the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooters, avoiding the need for Apple to build a backdoor. McAfee later admitted that his claims of how simple cracking the phone would be were part of a publicity stunt, though he still claimed he could pull it off.
In May 2016, McAfee was appointed chief executive chairman and CEO of MGT Capital Investments, a technology holding company. The company announced that it would be renamed John McAfee Global Technologies, although this has been delayed due to a dispute with Intel over rights to the "McAfee" name. McAfee changed MGT's focus from social gaming to cybersecurity, stating in an interview that "anti-virus software is dead, it no longer works", and that "the new paradigm has to stop the hacker getting in" before they can do damage.
Soon after joining MGT, McAfee claimed that he and his team had exploited a flaw in the Android operating system that allowed him to read encrypted messages from WhatsApp. Gizmodo investigated these claims and reported that McAfee had sent reporters malware-infected phones to make this hack work. McAfee responded to these accusations, writing, "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."
McAfee has also moved MGT into mining of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, saying that it was intended both to make money for the company and to increase MGT's expertise in dealing with blockchains, which he thought was important for cybersecurity. He has been extremely bullish about bitcoin, writing on Twitter in July 2017 that he predicted that the price of one bitcoin would jump to $500,000 within three years, and "If not, I will eat my own dick on national television".
On September 8, 2015, McAfee announced that he would seek the office of President of the United States in the 2016 presidential election, as the candidate of a newly formed political party called the Cyber Party. On December 24, 2015, he re-announced his candidacy bid, saying that he would instead seek the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party. On the campaign trail, McAfee consistently polled among the top three presidential candidates for his party with his rivals Gary Johnson and Austin Petersen. The three candidates appeared in the Libertarian Party's first nationally televised presidential debate on March 29, 2016.
McAfee announced that his vice presidential choice would be the photographer, former commercial real estate broker, and Libertarian activist Judd Weiss.Adam Kokesh, talk show host and activist
John Moore, Nevada assemblyman
L. Neil Smith, science fiction author and activist
Joy Waymire, Libertarian presidential candidate
McAfee identifies as a libertarian, advocating for the decriminalization of cannabis and an end to the war on drugs, non-interventionism in foreign policy and a free market economy which does not redistribute wealth and upholds free trade. McAfee supports abolishing the Transportation Security Administration.
McAfee advocates for increased cyber awareness and more action against the threat of cyberwarfare.
McAfee has advocated for religious liberty, saying that business owners should be able to deny service in cases that contradict their religious beliefs, saying that "No one is forcing you to buy anything or to choose one person over another. So why should I be forced to do anything if I am not harming you? It's my choice to sell, your choice to buy."
In a 2012 article in Mensa Bulletin, the magazine of American Mensa, he stated that being the developer of the first commercial anti-virus program has made him "the most popular hacking target", confiding: "Hackers see hacking me as a badge of honor". He added that for his own security he has other people buy his computer equipment for him, uses pseudonyms for setting up computers and logging in, and changes his IP address several times a day.
In 2012, when asked if he personally uses McAfee anti-virus, he replied: "I take it off," and, "It's too annoying."
In early 2013, McAfee was residing in Portland, Oregon, but he has since moved to Lexington, Tennessee, with his wife Janice Dyson.
McAfee claims that former cocaine baron "Boston" George Jung is writing his official biography, No Domain.
McAfee has taught yoga and has written several books about yoga.
On April 30, 2012, McAfee's property in Orange Walk Town, Belize, was raided by the Gang Suppression Unit of the Belizean Police Department. At that time, McAfee was in bed with his girlfriend, who, McAfee said, was traumatized by the incident. A GSU press release stated that McAfee was arrested for unlicensed drug manufacturing and possession of an unlicensed weapon. He was released without charge. In 2012, Belize police spokesman Raphael Martinez confirmed that McAfee was neither convicted nor charged, only suspected.
On November 12, 2012, Belize police started a search for McAfee as a "person of interest" in connection to the murder of American expatriate Gregory Viant Faull. Faull was found dead of a gunshot wound on November 11, 2012, at his home on the island of Ambergris Caye, the largest island in Belize. Faull was a neighbor of McAfee. In a November 2012 interview with Wired, McAfee said that he has always been afraid police would kill him and thus refused their routine questions; he has since evaded the Belizean authorities. Belize's prime minister Dean Barrow called McAfee "extremely paranoid, even bonkers". McAfee fled Belize when he was sought for questioning concerning the murder.
The magazine Vice accidentally gave away McAfee's location at a Guatemalan resort in early December 2012, when a photo taken by one of its journalists accompanying McAfee was posted with the Exif geolocation metadata still attached. While in Guatemala, McAfee asked Chad Essley, an American cartoonist and animator, to set up a blog so that he could write about his experience while on the run. McAfee then appeared publicly in Guatemala City, where he attempted to seek political asylum. On December 5, 2012, McAfee was arrested for illegally entering Guatemala. Shortly after he was placed under arrest, a board to review McAfee's plea for asylum was formed. The committee denied his asylum, so he was taken from his holding facility to a detention center in order to await deportation to Belize.
On December 6, 2012, Reuters and ABC News reported that McAfee had two minor heart attacks in a Guatemalan detention center and was hospitalized. McAfee's lawyer stated that his client had not suffered heart attacks, but had instead suffered from high blood pressure and anxiety attacks. McAfee later said that he faked the heart attacks while being held in Guatemala to buy time for his attorney to file a series of appeals that ultimately prevented his deportation to Belize, hastening the government's decision to send him back to the United States. On December 12, 2012, McAfee was released from detention in Guatemala and deported to the United States.
As of January 2014, Belizean police have presented no new accusations, and they have not persisted in seeking McAfee's imprisonment for any of the crimes they accused him of. However, they have auctioned off McAfee's seized assets, and his home was burned down under suspicious circumstances.
On August 2, 2015, McAfee was arrested in Henderson County, Tennessee, on charges of one count of driving under the influence and one count of possession of a firearm while intoxicated.
Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee is a Showtime Networks documentary about the portion of McAfee's life spent in Belize. It began airing in September, 2016. The documentary contains allegations of the sexual assault of McAfee's former business partner, Allison Adonizio, as well as of the murder of his neighbour, American expat Gregory Faull. In an interview with Bloomberg's Pimm Fox and Kathleen Hayes on September 8th, 2016, McAfee claimed that these incidents were fabricated, saying that "Belize is a third-world banana republic and you can go down there and make any story you want if you pay your interviewees, which Showtime did."
On March 27, 2017, it was announced that Johnny Depp would portray McAfee in a forthcoming film titled King of the Jungle. The film will focus on McAfee's life in Belize, as he takes a Wired magazine writer on a tour of his compound. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa will direct the film, while Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski will write the script.
On May 12, 2017, McAfee was interviewed in ABC's 20/20 regarding the alleged murder of his neighbor, Greg Faull. During the hour, Janice McAfee, John's wife, was also interviewed.