John McAfee is one of those folks that many people label as “colorful” if they are being polite, while others might use the term “crazy” or even worse if they don’t care for him. Like McAfee or not, he definitely is one of the most outspoken figures in the tech world. This week, he officially announced his next venture, which is to release a smartphone that he claims will be the most hack-proof device ever launched.
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First, a quick history lesson on McAfee. He is best known for founding McAfee Associates in 1987, which released the first commercial computer anti-virus software, also called McAfee. He left the company he founded in 1994, and since then he has put money in a number of other tech ventures, as well as other investments.
He also lived in the country of Belize for several years, and in 2012 he came into the international spotlight when the Belizean Police Department started searching for him as a “person of interest” in the murder of one of his neighbors, Gregory Viant Faull. McAfee decided to flee the country instead and ended up back the US where he still lives.
In 2016, a documentary on the Showtime cable TV network portrayed McAfee as a wild and crazy person. It alleged that he was involved in not one but two murders and that he has engaged in rape, drug use and more criminal activities. McAfee has denied the portrayal of himself in that documentary and said he planned to sue the filmmakers. It’s safe to say, however, that McAfee is not your normal, button-down tech geek or executive, no matter which version of the man you believe is real.
Now McAfee believes that, even with his own checkered background, there will be an audience for his privacy-themed smartphone. It’s officially called the John McAfee Privacy Phone, which is about as dull of a name as you could expect. The phone itself will be released by a security firm he leads called MGT. Earlier this week, he posted an image of what he called the first prototype of the Privacy Phone on his Twitter account and it clearly shows that it is running some version of Android.
Of course, we have seen claims about other Android phones that were supposed to be ultra-secure in the past, such as the Blackphone, that have never taken off in terms of sales. What will make McAfee’s Privacy Phone more hack-proof than these other devices? In a chat with Newsweek, McAfee says it’s all about the hardware in the phone. Specifically, he claims owners will be able to remove not just the battery but also the phone’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and geolocation wireless hardware, along with its camera and microphone.
He claims owners will be able to remove not just the battery but also the phone's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and geolocation wireless hardware, along with its camera and microphone.
He adds that the Privacy Phone will be protected from IMSI catcher devices that are designed to intercept mobile phone traffic and location data. Finally, the web browser in the Privacy Phone is supposed to include an anonymizer so when you search on the browser, you won’t get hit by ads.
McAfee is holding off on revealing the specific hardware specs of the Privacy Phone until the week before it is launched. That is supposed to happen sometime later this year. The phone will be priced at a hefty $1,100 when it is released. McAfee claims it is mostly targeting enterprise users, but he believes it will also attract buyers who simply want to have a more secure mobile phone experience. He seems very confident it will be a success, so much so that a second version of the phone is already planned for the summer of 2018, which McAfee claims “will be as hack proof as humanly possible.”
He seems very confident it will be a success, so much so that a second version of the phone is already planned for the summer of 2018, which McAfee claims
Putting aside the fact that many companies have tried and failed to push expensive privacy-themed smartphones to consumers and businesses in the past, this new venture has the added baggage of having McAfee attached to it. Really, would you want to buy a smartphone that was developed by a man who has been accused of so much illegal stuff in the past? We would be afraid that if we bought the phone, our info might be collected and used for . . . well, some bad stuff. Even if that was not the case, paying $1,100 for a phone with high claims of being ultra-safe to use without real proof is taking a huge risk, no matter who was selling it.
Are you interested in getting the John McAfee Privacy Phone, even with his reputation? Do you think such a phone, even with its hardware and software features, could be as secure as he claims? Let us know what you think in the comments.