Science & Tech

The wild, incredible life of John McAfee: 9 things you need to know about tragic anti-virus guru

The wild, incredible life of John McAfee: 9 things you need to know about tragic anti-virus guru
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Eccentric antivirus software company founder John McAfee was found dead in a Spanish jail on Wednesday, not long after a court approved his extradition to the US to face criminal tax evasion charges.

It brings to an end a lifetime of drama - filled with the highs of mind-blowing success, alongside true lows, the likes of which most people will never endure.

He launched his first entrepreneurial venture before even finishing college

British-born McAfee moved to America with his parents when he was young - and when the future entrepreneur was just 15 years old his alcoholic father took his own life.

And while McAfee also drank heavily at college, he quickly managed to channel most of his energies into selling magazines door-to-door in his first entrepreneurial venture.

He ended up in a drug spiral that ended with him being caught snorting coke at work

After a stint at IBM where he helped them to calibrate train schedules - a fairly dull part of his life - he quickly turned up the contrast by dabbling with LSD and other psychedelics.

One trip was all too much, and he lost the plot and hid behind a rubbish bin.

Perhaps it was the dabbling with drugs that led him to the city of San Francisco in the 1970s, cycling between various companies - including Nasa! - while misusing drugs and alcohol.

Eventually, it caught up with him, and he sought help when he was caught snorting cocaine at his desk at a company called Omex.

He realised tackling viruses could be big business before most people had computers

It was in the very early days of consumer computing that he’d spot the area in which he’d make his fortune. While working for defence company Lockheed in the 1980s he heard of PC viruses and decided to make his own company to counteract them. A 1992 computer virus called Michelangelo prompted many people who were previously unaware of computer viruses to invest in protection.

He made $100m - and lost $96m of it

He resigned in 1994 - long before most people owned their own computers - cashing out for a cool $100m. Right around that time, life seemed pretty wholesome. He lived a chill existence of giving startup advice, giving lectures to college kids, and playing around with a couple of projects that would never get off the ground.

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But the 2008 financial crisis reportedly took its toll and reduced his fortune to a mere $4m, and he decided to embark upon a new life in Belize. He wanted to start a new antibiotic research company but appeared to become increasingly detached from reality and feared he was being watched.

He became detached from reality and said he’d become filthy and unkempt

He grew disconnected from society, and said at one point: “My fragile connection with the world of polite society has, without a doubt, been severed. My attire would rank me among the worst-dressed Tijuana panhandlers. My hygiene is no better. Yesterday, for the first time, I urinated in public, in broad daylight.”

He fell under suspicion of killing a man

After becoming a ‘person of interest’ after his neighbor was shot to death, he fled Belize. An ill-judged interview with Vice ended up with him being tracked down to Guatemala because the website hadn’t scrubbed the photo GPS co-ordinates. He later went back to the US - and a media circus.

He tried to run for president - twice

In 2016, and in 2020, he made long-shot attempts to become president. He ran for the Libertarian Party’s nomination on both occasions, but was unsuccessful.

He decided that taxes were illegal, and vowed he’d never kill himself. Then got arrested for tax evasion, and reportedly killed himself.

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McAfee believed that taxes are illegal and said in 2019 that he hadn’t filed with the IRS since 2010. In 2019, he said that he was living on a boat in international waters to avoid arrest - and also posted a tweet saying: “Getting subtle messages from U.S. officials saying, in effect: ‘We’re coming for you McAfee! We’re going to kill yourself’. I got a tattoo today just in case. If I suicide myself, I didn’t. I was whackd. Check my right arm.”

On October 5, 2020, McAfee was arrested in Spain at the request of the US on tax evasion charges. The indictment claimed he earned millions of dollars from 2014–18, but had failed to file income tax returns.

When he extradition to the US was approved, he reportedly killed himself.

A post from beyond the grave

Shortly after his death was announced - a single post appeared on his Instagram account. The white background with a large, black, bold-font ‘Q’ sparked a renewed wave of speculation surrounding his death, and appeared to reference the QAnon conspiracy theory that took hold among folks on the fringe-right before, during and after the 2020 election.

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