John McAfee cures a virus

John McAfee, a pioneer in the development of anti-virus software, died on June 23, 2021. According to reports, the 75-year-old man committed suicide while in prison near Barcelona, ​​Spain, where he was awaiting his death. extradition to the United States to face charges. of tax evasion.

McAfee gained wide recognition in the late 80s and early 90s. As the use of personal computers took off, people began to talk about “surfing the web”, and browsers. easy to use such as Mosaic (soon to be Netscape Navigator) and Explorer have started to attract more and more users to this wonderful new place called The Web.

(According to the Internet Hall of Fame, Jean Armor Polly, a librarian from upstate New York, wrote and published an Internet guide called Surf the internet in 1992 and “is often credited with coining the phrase”.)

Close behind are creatures known as hackers, generally described as evil or malicious young men, who have created computer viruses with names like Brain, Michelangelo, and Chernobyl, designed to cause chaos or worse.

In the years 2008 Inventors and inventions volume 4, produced by British publisher Marshall Cavendish, McAfee is described as “the inventor of anti-virus software”.

McAfee was born on September 18, 1945 at a US Army base in Gloucestershire, Britain, where his American father and British mother were stationed. The family quickly moved to Virginia in the United States.

He graduated from Virginia Roanoke College with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, began a PhD in Mathematics at Northeast Louisiana State College in 1968, then moved to Northern California and the nascent tech hub called Silicon Valley grew around Stanford University.

the Inventors and inventions The article says he “held at least a dozen jobs during that time, most of which involved developing computer hardware or software.”

In a comprehensive and sometimes poignant 2012 article for Wired magazine, reporter Joshua Davis wrote that after years of drug and alcohol fueled chaos followed by years of sobriety, McAfee landed a job with aerospace and tech company Lockheed when the Brain computer virus hit in 1986.

Commercial technology news website ZDNet has called Brain “the world’s first PC virus.”

He says Brain was created by Basit and Amjad Farooq Alvi, two Pakistani programmers, who wrote it to prevent people from pirating their software. They did “what was supposed to be a kill switch for illegal copies.” But the design was flawed; copy protection software could duplicate itself – and it did.

ZDNet described Brain as working “by changing the boot sector of a floppy disk.” When an infected floppy disk was inserted into a computer, it installed Brain into the computer’s memory, from where it infected new floppy disks as they were inserted.

According to the Turkish website TRTWorld, “some estimates suggest that between 1986 and 1989, the Brain virus affected more than 100,000 computers.”

There was no secret about Brain’s origins, as the brothers included their names, address and phone numbers in the virus. “We were just showing our skills to each other and trying to identify the vulnerability of the DOS system,” says Amjad. “I didn’t think it would get that big.

TRTWorld calls Brain “a benign virus”, which is not intended to erase data or damage hardware. But it opened the floodgates for new viruses, which used similar techniques to infiltrate computers and cause damage.

Among those impressed with the brothers’ code writing skills was John McAfee.

In a 2019 interview, McAfee told TRTWorld he had read articles about the virus in a California newspaper, “and I wonder” how the hell did they do that? No one had ever thought of using software to act like bacteria and viruses. It’s a brilliant idea.

McAfee studied Brain and wrote a program to counter it. “I posted it on my bulletin board and two weeks later I had a million users,” he said.

Joshua Davis says McAfee started his business from his home in Santa Clara, California. “His business plan: to create an anti-virus program and distribute it on message boards. McAfee didn’t expect users to pay. Its real purpose was to make them believe that the software was so necessary that they would install it on their computers at work. They did it. In five years, half of the Fortune 100 companies were running it and they felt pressured to pay a royalty. In 1990, McAfee was making $ 5 million a year with very little overhead or investment.

“His success was due in part to his ability to spread his own paranoia, the fear that there was always someone about to attack. Shortly after starting his business, he bought a motorhome, loaded it with computers, and announced that he had formed the first “anti-virus paramedic unit”.

Over the next several years, McAfee sold all of its stakes in the company, and in 2010, according to Davis, it was bought by chipmaking giant Intel for $ 7.68 billion.

His legacy also includes unsuccessful applications to become the Libertarian Party’s candidate in the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.

He had lived for many years in Belize, the Caribbean country on the northeast coast of Central America, but was forced to flee in 2012 after police sought to question him about the murder of his neighbour.

According to Bloomberg News, McAfee applied for asylum in neighboring Guatemala but was deported for entering the country illegally, and he returned to the United States in December 2012.

In his obituary for McAfee, the Washington post says that “despite his growing legal problems” he has become a successful “technology expert and cryptocurrency promoter”, posing as “a cybersecurity guru, warning of the dangers presented by hackers and making paid appearances at conferences and on television ”.

In March 2019, according to the Post, facing mounting financial pressures from unpaid taxes and other legal battles, McAfee boarded his yacht, “the Great Mystery, and traveled from port to port in the Caribbean ”.

The Post says that after being detained in the Dominican Republic “for allegedly transporting large caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style equipment, he hired local lawyers who managed to get him sent to England.” In 2020, he traveled to Spain, where he was arrested and jailed pending his extradition to the United States.

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