We’ve all been to a job fair or a conference where they give out all kinds of free goodies. Sometimes they’re things you’ll just throw away later, or put in a drawer somewhere and forget about. Usually they’re pens, key chains, stress balls, and occasionally you’ll get a USB thumb drive. I find the thumb drive to be the most useful of all the freebies. However, if someone you don’t know gives you a flash drive, are you going to just blindly stick it in your computer? I would imagine if you received it from a business, you’d assume they were trustworthy and probably wouldn’t think much of it. What if some random guy ran up to you on the street and handed you a flash drive and said,
“Hey pal! Have this free flash drive!
I promise there’s nothing bad on it!”
I bet you wouldn’t use it, at least I’d hope you wouldn’t!
As you may or may not know, John McAfee, the creator of his namesake anti-virus software, though no longer affiliated with the company, has been in some fairly hot water for the awhile. On April 30th, 2012, McAfee’s house was raided by Belize’s Gang Suppression Unit under the suspicion that McAfee was producing Methamphetamine on his property. McAfee had moved to his jungle stronghold in 2009 after selling off most of his assets and property. He claimed to have moved to the jungle to search for natural antibiotics and had constructed a laboratory on his property.
According to Wired.com’s article, “They [The Gang Suppression Unit (GSU)] found shotguns, pistols, a huge cache of ammunition, and hundreds of bottles of chemicals they couldn’t identify.” McAfee’s dog was also shot dead right in front of him. The GSU found no illegal drugs of any kind, and the weapons and ammunition were confiscated. He was charged with possessing an unlicensed firearm and three of his security guards were charged for operating without a license. McAfee spent a night in jail and the charges against him were dropped the next day.
You’re probably wondering what the last few paragraphs have to do with each other. Well let me tell you. The raid on McAfee severely ruffled his feathers. He demanded an apology from the Belizean government and no apology was given. What followed is a tale of espionage and revenge worthy of Hollywood.
McAfee purchased seventy-five cheap laptops and loaded them with invisible keystroke logging software. The software was capable of calling home to McAfee to dump text files, which allowed him to power on and off the computers, and also gave him control of the microphones and webcams. The laptops were then repackaged to look new and given out to government employees, police officers, assistants, and significant other powerful men and women. McAfee hired four people to monitor the text files from the keyloggers and document passwords for things such as Facebook, email, and other secure accounts. He then hired twenty-three women and six men for the purposes of social engineering and was able to infiltrate the two major phone companies, which allowed him to listen in on phone conversations. All the while he was doing this, he sent an email to the Prime Minister each week asking for an apology. McAfee stated that this would have halted the process if he had received it in the early stages.
“What I was looking for was hard proof of corruption at a high level. I’m not sure what I expected to gain. The satisfaction of revenge perhaps – to some extent – what little satisfaction there is in revenge. As a way to get my stuff back? Maybe. For the sheer joy of muscle flexing? I can’t answer precisely. Much of my life is a mystery to me. Suffice to say: I just did it because I could.” -John McAfee’s blog at whoismcafee.com.
McAfee states that what he found was mostly what he expected to find, sexual affairs and intimate chats mostly. However, there were things he did not expect to find. One of them being that the Prime Minister had personally ordered the murder of Arthur Young, a Belizean gang leader. A more important discovery was that of human trafficking which lead McAfee to discover the Belizean government was issuing false identities to these people and supplying them with passports and aiding them in infiltrating America. To quote McAfee, “Belize is clearly the central player in a larger network whose goal is to infiltrate the U.S. with individuals having links to terrorist organizations.”
All of this is quite the find for someone who really just started doing this because he was angry. I cannot validate the legitimacy of McAfee’s accusations, nor is that the point of this blog.
What happened here is, if McAfee’s story is accurate, people accepted free laptops from someone they were acquainted with, but did not actually know and used these laptops without giving it a second thought. These peoples’ blind trust gave McAfee so much information that he had to hire people to analyze it for him.
Now, odds are, that nice lady that gave you that 2GB flash drive at the Security Conference last week is not out to get revenge on you, nor is the company that she works for. However, the people that received those free laptops from McAfee probably thought he was just a nice guy.