When cyber safety magnate John McAfee tried to run for the White Home in 2016, he invoked a Silicon Valley mantra from Steve Jobs in his marketing campaign video, celebrating nonconformists: “Right here’s to the loopy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the spherical pegs within the sq. holes.”

McAfee, who was discovered lifeless in a Spanish jail cell on Wednesday on account of an obvious suicide, fitted every of these descriptions — and extra. 

In his 75 years, the pioneer of his eponymous antivirus software program constructed and misplaced a fortune, recast himself as a libertarian politician, after which as a cryptocurrency hype man — all whereas having repeated brushes with the regulation.

His loss of life got here hours after the Spanish excessive court docket accredited an extradition request from the US, the place he confronted tax evasion fees. McAfee had been in jail in Barcelona since October, when he was arrested on the request of the US after fleeing America in his yacht, within the ultimate of a number of high-profile flights from authority. 

To many, McAfee’s nomadic life had descended into paranoia, violence and grifting. He had not too long ago been charged with fraud over his involvement in cryptocurrency pump-and-dump schemes, and had been linked by authorities to the homicide of a neighbour in 2012. His ramblings on Twitter and YouTube had turn out to be more and more incoherent. 

However to the buddies and followers to whom he addressed his marketing campaign video, he was an anti-establishment hero — whose fears round technology-enabled authorities surveillance and monetary establishments mirrored rising distrust of authorities at the moment. 

“He at all times dreamt of constructing an alternate web that wouldn’t have all the issues and issues that the present web has,” stated Kim Dotcom, an web entrepreneur and buddy who himself is accused of masterminding one of many largest copyright infringements in historical past. 

In McAfee’s personal phrases, per his Twitter biography, he was an “iconoclast” and a “lover of girls, journey and thriller”.

McAfee in 1989
McAfee in 1989. His software program grew to become ubiquitous as the specter of pc viruses rose © John Storey/Getty

McAfee in Guatemala
McAfee in Guatemala, the place he was later arrested and deported to the US © Joe Raedle/Getty

McAfee was born in 1945 on a military base within the UK to an English mom and an American soldier who was stationed there. Educated in arithmetic, McAfee shortly discovered to grasp computing throughout stints at Nasa, Xerox and Lockheed Martin within the Nineteen Seventies and Eighties. 

He made his title together with his antivirus software program, which grew to become ubiquitous as pc viruses grew to become an more and more pervasive safety risk. In 1994, he stepped down as chief govt, promoting his McAfee stake for a reported $100m, a fortune that he all however misplaced in the course of the monetary disaster. 

“Though John McAfee based the corporate, he has not been related to our firm in any capability for over 25 years,” stated McAfee, which listed on public markets late final yr. “That stated, our ideas go to his household and people near him.” 

Outdoors of the company world, the multimillionaire displayed a penchant for danger. A decade after leaving McAfee, he pioneered a sport known as “aerotrekking”, which concerned flying microlight plane at excessive speeds over a desert airstrip. When tragedy struck in 2007, and a consumer of his aerotrekking enterprise died in an accident at his New Mexico property, he swiftly moved to Belize. 

There, he took up residency in a “get together palace”, embarking on a playboy way of life of medicine, weapons and girlfriends. That, too, was to not final: in 2012, his neighbour, US citizen Gregory Faull, was murdered by a gunshot to the pinnacle and McAfee was named a “particular person of curiosity” within the case. Denying any involvement, he fled to neighbouring Guatemala, the place he was later arrested and deported to the US. He was by no means charged in relation to the homicide. 

An unapologetic libertarian who reportedly conducted press interviews with a loaded gun in every hand to really feel “snug”, McAfee additionally launched into a quixotic political profession. He first introduced a White Home bid in 2015 together with his personal newly fashioned get together, the Cyber get together, earlier than later — unsuccessfully — looking for the Liberation get together nomination within the 2016 race.

“His important mantra in life was freedom,” stated Zoltan Istvan, the founding father of the Transhumanist get together, who met McAfee on the marketing campaign path in 2015.

“He knew he was being eccentric,” Istvan added, of his public persona. “He preferred to be a maverick and he preferred the eye . . . However if you sat right down to dinner and there have been no [journalists] there to cowl it, it’s only a actual good dialog with a man who’s extremely vibrant.” 

McAfee advised the Spanish courts final week that his foray in politics took place as a result of he had uncovered corruption within the US tax system, and “thought of that solely by political motion may the tax authorities be rid of [this]”.

McAfee shopping in South Beach, Miami, in 2012
McAfee procuring in South Seashore, Miami, in 2012 © TNS/ABACA/Reuters

McAfee at an internet security conference in China in 2016
McAfee at an web safety convention in China in 2016 © Ng Han Guan/AP

A deep distrust of state surveillance and monetary establishments additionally drew him to the freewheeling world of cryptocurrencies. He was fast to turn out to be one of many earliest and most vociferous digital foreign money proponents, pledging in 2017 that he would eat his personal penis “on nationwide tv” if the bitcoin value didn’t attain $500,000 by mid-2020. 

His propensity to speak up cryptocurrency initiatives on Twitter additionally caught the eye of regulators. In March, he was charged by US federal prosecutors with fraud. In line with the complaint, McAfee chosen some small cryptocurrencies — together with dogecoin — to advertise on the social media platform as “coin of the day” or “coin of the week” in early 2018, shopping for up them upfront and cashing out as soon as the market surged on his suggestions. 

McAfee and others additionally earned $11m touting a number of preliminary coin choices on Twitter, whereas failing to publicly disclose that they have been being paid for the promotional work, regulators stated. 

In what was to turn out to be his ultimate voyage, McAfee fled the US in 2019 on his yacht after he was indicted by a grand jury for hiding tens of millions of {dollars} in taxable revenue between 2016 and 2018. The cash was earned, partly, from his selling cryptocurrencies and promoting the rights to his life story, and was hid by frontmen.

Although he was ultimately arrested in Spain in October 2020, he nonetheless didn’t hand over the struggle. In a Spanish excessive court docket listening to final week, he claimed that the US tax fees had “a political motivation”, since he had used his political platform to “denounce corruption” of the US Inner Income Service.

However the court docket rejected his arguments and on Wednesday morning accredited an extradition request from the US, and McAfee confronted the potential of the remainder of his life behind bars. 

He’s survived by his spouse Janice, a former intercourse employee who has campaigned for his launch underneath the catchphrase “Free McAfee”.

Even in loss of life, McAfee was outstanding at sparking a media frenzy. For months, he had mythologised a possible departure from the world by the hands of authorities. In a single tweet in October, he wrote: “Know that if I hold myself . . . it will likely be no fault of mine”.

Across the time of his loss of life on Wednesday, a put up appeared on his Instagram that merely confirmed the letter “Q” — an obvious reference to conspiracy cult QAnon, sparking its personal wave of conspiracies. 

“All energy corrupts,” he wrote in his ultimate Twitter message on Friday. “Take care which powers you permit a democracy to wield.” 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *