John McAfee: Apple won’t like FBI’s iPhone ‘universal master key’

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John McAfee has previously offered to help decrypt information on the San Bernardino iPhone.
Photo: CNBC

Cybersecurity legend John McAfee has denied suggestions that he’s helping the FBI to crack the iPhone at the center of the San Bernardino shooting case, but hinted that he knows which party is involved. And, according to McAfee, it’s not good news for Apple.

“Apple and Tim Cook are not going to be happy with what the FBI has come up with,” he told CNBC in an interview. “It’s not worse than a universal master key, but it’s much much easier to get into a phone with it.”

McAfee didn’t elaborate on the specifics of the solution, but added that he’s “not fond of it.” He says that, after the FBI saw that Apple wasn’t going to comply with its demands, despite having the technical means, it figured “hackers can do it, and that’s what’s happened here.”

McAfee has previously offered to help the FBI free of charge in decrypting the information stored on terrorist iPhones — although he says he is opposed to creating a backdoor for all iOS devices. As he wrote on Tech Insider: “We will primarily use social engineering, and it will take us three weeks [to come up with a solution]. If [the FBI] accept my offer, then [they] will not need to ask Apple to place a back door in its product, which will be the beginning of the end of America.”

Ominous warnings about iPhone hacking aside, McAfee also talked about a longer-term way that phones can be intercepted in his CNBC interview. Specifically, he describes a phone tracker called stingray, which masks itself by pretending to be a cellphone tower, which then lets it connect directly with smartphones. Once this is achieved, it sends an update which appears to be a legitimate software update, but allows phones to be intercepted from within half a mile, while user locations can be tracked, and messages can be read in real-time as they’re being typed.

Following yesterday’s tragic terrorist attack at Brussels Airport, McAfee suggests that similar technology is sent over to Belgium for deployment.