My adventures with John McAfee

Now under suspicion of murder in Central America, McAfee gave me my first foothold in the security industry, and we kept in contact until his actions grew increasingly weird

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The reporter printed this statement from me at the same time that John McAfee gave over the reins of McAfee Associates to Bill Larson, the new CEO and lawyer. Larson renamed the company to Network Associates, which didn't like the negative press from the quoted statement ("John McAfee paid for computer viruses"). Suddenly, I was threatened by Network Associate lawyers to retract my statements or be sued.

I had saved my old FidoNet chats with John McAfee and protected them with a PGP encryption key. Unfortunately, I learned that 5.25-inch disks stored in the trunk of your car won't be reliable after a few years. They were full of disk errors and refuse to decrypt. I emailed John McAfee, explaining what was happening, and he basically told me good luck, he didn't have anything to do with that company anymore. Without any evidence and under the threat of a lawsuit, I retracted my statements. It was a terrible embarrassment, for both me and the journalist.

A bizarre ending
But the strangest part of knowing McAfee was the time he wanted me to help start an AIDS-free sex club. I still remember how excited he was about his new, brilliant idea. Membership required a fee and an AIDS test. If the test came back negative, you were given a membership card, which you could then take to organized member parties, have lots of casual sex, and not worry about catching the virus.

John wanted me to set a club up on the East Coast while he set one up on the West Coast. I started to get more and more urgent emails from him about the matter. His continued conversations and excitement about the club weirded me out, and I stop answering his emails. He was obviously a smart guy, but way more eccentric than I could handle. I ceased communicating with him entirely.

As proof that the computer security industry is smaller than it seems, I eventually ended up working for Network Associates (formerly known as McAfee Associates), when it bought the company Foundstone, where I worked as an instructor and penetration tester. By the time I became an official McAfee employee, Larson had just resigned as CEO amid an accounting scandal involving hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue fraud.

So that's my history with John McAfee. Some of the personality traits I've read in the articles today bring to mind my interactions with him long ago. I had thought he'd become an eccentric millionaire flying ultralight airplanes in the desert. Now he's a "person of interest" in the murder of an American in Belize. I am surprised, of course, but given his bizarre behavior toward the end of my association with him, not entirely shocked.

This story, "My adventures with John McAfee," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Keep up on the latest developments in network security and read more of Roger Grimes' Security Adviser blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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