McAfee: Governments’ Invasion Of Our Privacy Is An Insidious, Creeping Insanity

Controversial tech boss John McAfee has lashed out at government agencies around the globe for forcing IT software makers to create backdoors in their solutions that allow them to spy on users of the products.

The founder of antivirus firm McAfee, who in 2012 was sought by police in Belize in connection with the murder of his neighbour, said the world’s political climate is changing, and is having a negative influence on IT security.

Strong influence

Speaking at InfoSecurity Europe 2015, he said: “It influences the way we design our security products. It influences the way the hackers plan to hack into the things we want them to stay away from.

“Among other things, it’s led to the creation of backdoors into software – this is something that cannot stand.”

“We cannot allow a fearful government or institution to create weaknesses in the very software we’re trying to protect. People are human. If there is a backdoor it’s likely that the backdoor will become available to hackers. Nobody’s perfect.”

If a backdoor does exist in a piece of software, then someone will know about it, making them a “weak link”, McAfee explained.

“Someone has to know that there is a backdoor – the programmer, the owner of the company, the government agency that has access. At some point one of the people in this chain is going to find themselves in a situation where they’re about to lose their house or their job, or they’ll owe a lot of money. That person then becomes the weak link in the chain.

“Or if someone doesn’t get the raise they expected or their employment review doesn’t go as well as they thought it would, they can get ticked off and become the weak link. We’re human.”

The reason we have software is to prevent the mistakes that we make, he added.

“So why are we creating software then giving out information to humans that are the weak link in the chain, so that humans can monitor us? We didn’t create a government to tell us what to do or what to think or to watch over us. We created a government to serve us, to build roads and schools, the things we need. Not to say ‘you might be the enemy’.”

If someone is treating you like the enemy, maybe you are the enemy to them, he warned.

“This is something we need to think about. Do you want a government that looks at you like the potential problem? They think ‘we want to see what you’re doing so we can be sure you’re not going to do something wrong’.

“Something is wrong with this thinking. It’s an insanity – a very insidious, creeping insanity that must stop if we’re to ever have any sort of security or privacy, especially in our information sector.”

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Duncan Macrae

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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