McAfee teases NSA-busting privacy gadget

October 1, 2013 // 10:25 a.m.

Tags: #belize #d-central #encryption #john-mcafee #mcafee #national-security-agency #nsa #privacy #snooping #the-onion-router #tor

Infamous security software specialist John McAfee has found a new way to hit headlines: the planned launch of an encrypted private networking system which he claims will thwart the best efforts of the National Security Agency (NSA) to snoop on private citizens.

McAfee is no stranger to controversy. While best known for being one of the pioneers of shareware-licensed anti-virus software, sold under his surname, his entrepreneurial start came surrounding a different type of virus: when concern over AIDS in San Francisco's gay community was at its height, McAfee made a comfortable living selling cards that marked the bearer as being free from HIV for six months from the date of a high-price blood test.

Following a heart attack in 1993, McAfee gave up the more damaging aspects of his hedonistic lifestyle - alcoholism and drug use - but continued to spend his money, made from licensing the McAfee anti-virus and later general computer security applications, on the pursuit of pleasure.

His semi-retirement in Belize came to a crashing halt in 2012 when police from the gang suppression unit raided his home and arrested McAfee for unlicensed drug manufacturing and possession of an unlicensed weapon. While being released without charge, McAfee was sought by police mere months later as a potential suspect in the murder of his neighbour. Rather than report for questioning, McAfee - described as 'extremely paranoid, even bonkers' by prime minster Dean Barrow of Belize - fled to Guatemala where he was arrested for illegal entry and deported back to the US.

It's here that McAfee has clearly decided to seek a return to his heyday with plans to launch a device dubbed D-Central, with the promise of protecting its users against electronic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency.

The device, its name a pun on 'decentral,' is claimed to retail for $100 and features peer-to-peer networking technology coupled with an encryption system which is designed to anonymise the user while scrambling their communications from anyone but the intended recipient. According to a speech given by McAfee at the San Jose McEnery Convention Centre this past weekend, as reported by The Verge, the system works around the principle of creating a 'dark web' overlay on top of existing networks like the Internet.

Sadly, McAfee is thus far being coy about how his $100 device would work, and how it differs from existing systems: The Onion Router (TOR) project, for instance, offers a similar 'dark web' and encrypted system which sits on top of existing networks, and can be installed on low-cost and low-power computing devices like the Raspberry Pi for whole-network protection if required.

McAfee has founded a new venture for the project, dubbed Future Tense Central, the website for which promises to reveal more details in 173 days.

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