(via Economic Times) Virus Software Pioneer John McAfee, died at the age of 75 | John McAfee, a software pioneer who became a fugitive, died at the age of 75. | On Wednesday, John McAfee, the eccentric security software pioneer who tried to live as a hedonistic outsider while avoiding a slew of legal issues, was discovered dead in his jail cell in Barcelona.

His death came just hours after a Spanish court granted his extradition to the United States to face tax accusations that may land him in prison for decades, according to authorities.

McAfee’s legal troubles spanned Tennessee, Central America, and the Caribbean, and he was a cryptocurrency promoter, tax opponent, U.S. presidential contender, and fugitive who openly embraced drugs, firearms, and sex. He was sought for questioning in connection with the death of his neighbor in Belize in 2012, but he was never charged.

The body of McAfee was discovered at the Brians 2 prison in northeastern Spain. According to a statement from the regional Catalan government, security officials attempted to revive him, but the jail’s medical team eventually declared his death.

John McAfee
John McAfee in Prison (via BoingBoing.net)

“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the circumstances of death,” the notice continued. “Everything leads to a suicide death,” says the narrator.

McAfee’s death was confirmed after Spain’s National Court ruled in favor of extraditing McAfee, 75, who had argued in a hearing earlier this month that Tennessee prosecutors’ charges against him were politically motivated and that if he were returned to the US, he would spend the rest of his life in prison.

The court’s decision was made public on Wednesday and is subject to appeal; any final extradition order must also be approved by the Spanish Cabinet.

McAfee was arrested at Barcelona’s international airport last October and has been held in custody since then while extradition proceedings are completed. The arrest came after he was charged with tax evasion in Tennessee the same month for failing to disclose revenue from promoting cryptocurrency while doing consulting work, giving speeches, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary. The criminal charges carried a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

McAfee’s Chicago-based attorney, Nishay Sanan, said over the phone that McAfee “will always be recognized as a fighter.”

 

Born John David McAfee in Gloucestershire, England, in 1945, he moved to Virginia as a child and grew up troubled, according to Steve Morgan, who spent time with McAfee in Alabama in 2016 to talk about his life for a biography he’d been hired to write. McAfee’s father “beat him mercilessly” and killed himself with McAfee’s shotgun when the boy was 15, Morgan said. Morgan is also the founder of Cybersecurity Ventures, a market research organization.

“He told me his father never showed him an ounce of affection,” Morgan claimed, adding that McAfee only sobbed once throughout their long encounter while narrating his father’s death.

While his stormy life has overshadowed McAfee’s tech legacy in recent years, Morgan believes his most lasting effect was as a software and security pioneer.

McAfee established his own corporation in 1987. Morgan said he was working with his brother-in-law and operating a BBS, a bulletin board system that served as a forerunner to the World Wide Web, at the time.

When the first major computer virus appeared, it was dubbed “When “Brain” was released in 1986, “John immediately dialed a programmer he knew and told him, “There’s a great opportunity.” Something must be done. We’d like to build some code to resist this infection, you know “Morgan remarked. The program’s name was VirusScan, and the company’s name was McAfee Associates.
Intel, which paid $7.68 billion for McAfee’s company in 2011, tried for a while to separate the brand from its controversial creator by incorporating it into its broader cybersecurity division. However, the rebranding was short-lived, and Intel’s cybersecurity division was spun off into a separate business called McAfee in 2016.

According to Vesselin Bontchev, a Bulgarian computer scientist and early antivirus researcher, McAfee’s claim to fame in the software industry was that he offered the first all-in-one virus scanner. Previously, researchers would only screen for one infection at a time, according to Bontchev. Back then, though, there were only about a dozen computer viruses.

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