John McAfee offers to hack shooter’s iPhone for FBI


John McAfee at DefCon 2014.
John McAfee at DefCon 2014.
Photo: NullSession/Flickr CC

Cybersecurity legend John McAfee has sided with Apple in the company’s fight against the FBI over creating a backdoor to access the San Bernardino shooter’s locked iPhone 5c.

But just because McAfee thinks Apple shouldn’t unlock the smartphone doesn’t mean he thinks he shouldn’t do it.

In an open letter regarding Tim Cook’s decision to deny the FBI request, McAfee has offered up the services of his team of superhero hackers to unlock the iPhone — and he says it will only take them three weeks.

“Here is my offer to the FBI, I will, free of charge, decrypt the information on the San Bernardino phone, with my team,” McAfee wrote on Tech Insider. “We will primarily use social engineering, and it will take us three weeks. If you accept my offer, then you will not need to ask Apple to place a back door in its product, which will be the beginning of the end of America.”

The battle between Apple and the FBI over de-encryption of deceased terrorist Sayed Farook’s iPhone exploded this week when a U.S. judge ordered Apple to write software that would unlock the shooter’s smartphone for the bureau. Farook and his wife/accomplice, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in a mass shooting last December at an office party in San Bernardino, California. Farook and Malik were killed in a gun battle with police after the attack.

While the possibility of gaining insight into the killers’ contacts and motives makes unlocking the phone extremely attractive, security experts, civil rights groups, a growing number of Silicon Valley companies and even plain old Apple fans have come to Cupertino’s defense on the issue. They argue that if Apple complies with the FBI request, it will basically be the end of privacy as we know it.

McAfee’s hacker squad

McAfee’s elite team of hackers is supposedly comprised of the best prodigies on the planet. Only 25 percent are actually hardcore coders, while the rest are social engineers. Still, McAfee is supremely confident they’re up for the task.

“I would eat my shoe on the Neil Cavuto show if we could not break the encryption on the San Bernardino phone, McAfee said. “This is a pure and simple fact.”

By finding an alternative to opening the iPhone, McAfee’s team would be able to satisfy Apple’s desire to not build a backdoor that can be used again and again by law enforcement and other hackers. The FBI would be happy because they would get more data on Farook and possibly his terrorist connections, but it seems like the bureau’s true goal is to set a legal precedent to force tech companies to hack themselves.