John McAfee’s Wild Ride Is Over

John McAfee, the founder of McAfee Associates and pioneer in the antivirus field, was found dead today, June 23, 2021, of an apparent suicide in a Barcelona prison cell.

Born in 1945, the term “colorful” doesn’t begin to describe the life of McAfee. His entree into the nascent computer industry began with a degree in mathematics, followed by choice assignments at places like Xerox PARC, NASA, Univac, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Lockheed. He built up an impressive resume of programming skills until serendipity struck, in the form of one of the earliest computer viruses: the Brain virus. First found in the mid-1980s, Brain infected the boot sector of floppy disks and was originally intended as a somewhat heavy-handed form of copy protection by its authors. The virus rubbed McAfee the wrong way, and he threw himself into writing software to protect PCs from such infections. These were the roots of McAfee Associates, which opened its doors in 1987.

McAfee was done with his namesake company by 1994 and embarked on a series of business ventures with varying degrees of success, and a lifestyle that raised eyebrows as it departed more and more from the image of a tech entrepreneur. The Caribbean nation of Belize became a sort of base of operations for him, although he also claimed residency in places like Portland, Oregon, and Tennesee over the years. He was a person of interest in the 2012 death of his neighbor in Belize, but fled the country before he could be questioned by police there. He was captured in Guatemala when EXIF data in a picture taken by a reporter showed up online.

In custody in Guatemala, McAfee faked a series of heart attacks to avoid extradition back to Belize, and instead was deported to the United States. The state of Tennesee took an interest in him for DUI and weapons charges; eventually, the federal government added tax evasion charges — McAfee claimed that income taxes were illegal, and bragged openly about not paying federal taxes between 2014 and 2018, despite earning millions from consulting, speaking engagements, and selling his life story for a documentary. He used his resources to disappear for a while, but he was eventually arrested in Spain in October of 2020, after which US federal authorities tacked on cryptocurrency fraud charges and arranged for extradition back to the States.

McAfee, who famously Tweeted in October (apparently from his prison cell?) that he had no intention of killing himself, was found hanging in his prison cell today. Details are sketchy at this point, and there’s sure to be a lot of speculation about what happened, as well as discussion of the legacy of this larger-than-life pioneer of technology. We recently got a tip from someone who worked with McAfee, and who created a YouTube series detailing his dealings with him. We haven’t watched the whole series, so take it for what it’s worth, but it sure appears to be a first-hand account of one of the many people who shared John McAfee’s wild ride through life.

Image credits: Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images, Fred DuFour/AFP via Getty Images

53 thoughts on “John McAfee’s Wild Ride Is Over

  1. The man was a legend, and an example (sometimes a bad one) to many. I for one will miss his antics. Btw, in October of 2020 he announced that if he was ever found dead in his cell it was involuntary.

      1. “it” being offing himself? Or “it” being the possibility that he pissed the wrong people off and that it was likely they’d kill him and make it look like a suicide?

    1. Seems like a lot of effort to kill a guy who paid cartoonists to follow him around and make him look cool and edgy in an obvious emulation of Hunter Thompson. Why bother killing a guy who’s no threat to any intelligence agency or national security of any nation.

      1. McAfee if you want to be completely correct.
        (In names with a Mc- or Mac- prefix the initial ‘M’ is capitalised, and so is the first letter of the name, eg MacDonald, McCloud etc.)

  2. Anyone who met him should have been able to see that he was mentally ill, but he used his money to stay out of treatment. Humoring him and taking his money should be criminal.

    I’m sad that a man is dead.

    I’m NOT sad that I’ll have less…
    Person: Hey did you hear about X computer thing?
    Me: *research*
    Me: uhh. That’s just some nonsense McAfee said. You should probably stop repeating it…

    1. He suffered from paranoid delusions. He once said a swat team accosted him in his home, forced him to the floor and just pointed their guns at him for hours.

      It really is sad that his antics were a form of entertainment for many because he has suffered (no matter how much culpability he had for his situation). He’s garnered an image of the ‘troubled genius’ but the truth is the world has lost a capable intelligent man to mental health issues.

      1. “He once said a swat team accosted him in his home, forced him to the floor and just pointed their guns at him for hours.”

        yeah, but America, so entirely likely to have happened.

  3. Whatever his faults, he appears to actually have earned his money from voluntary exchange and not corruption, theft and ponzy schemes. I was a happy customer.

    Even if he didn’t bribe his way out, Ragnar Danneskjöld is returning his gold in Atlantis.

    1. it seems that he was responsible for the creation of the michaelangelo virus, having commissioned its author to do so, for which he sold the only solution. that’s one way to create a demand for your supply.

    2. Didn’t he also advertise working as a pimp while in Central/South America, and offering the wares he sold gratis to law enforcement or rival gangs to get out of hot water? (It used to be part of his website’s FAQ, and he cut/pasted it as part of an interview he did with Slashdot years ago.) I’m not sure all of his activities were “voluntary exchange free of corruption or theft”.

  4. From what accounts I’ve seen, the dude was almost on an IV drip of cocaine and other drugs and had the mental effects that stem from heavy drug use. He was in jail for almost nine months now, plenty of time for withdraw symptoms and prison life to set in and change his mind, especially given he had just lost his attempt to get his extradition to the US denied.

  5. Kinda doubt it. This guy was no Epstein who could clearly incriminate lots of really powerful people. Add to that his evidently poor mental health and probably poor physical health and his age, this might plausibly have seemed the better option compared to extradition to the US.

  6. There is a lot of black around the comments. It might be carbon and so might slowly moderate the nonsense.

    But yes, on principle, a little more tastefulness could be exercised when discussing such matters.

    Personally, I think McAntiVirusAlreadyInstalled was an interesting experiment that the universe needed to get out of its system and I was happy to be a bystander. Even though I’ve needed to click uninstall a whole bunch of times over the last 30 something years.

    Fairly sure the free version was made use of at some point, or a promo version with a magazine.

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