He is best known for developing software that helps thwart hackers who would steal our passwords and other valuable
. Now, John McAfee has come up with a way to thwart the biggest hacker of all -- the National Security Agency (NSA).
It's a $100 gadget called the "D-Central" because of the decentralized network it creates, a dynamic local-area wireless network. McAfee has called his new device "revolutionary," and has told news media that he "cannot imagine any college student not standing in line to buy one of these."
McAfee said he's been working on the project for some years, although with increasing urgency in recent months. Given that the NSA has "created every single encryption algorithm that we use," he said that the agency has access to whatever encoded communication it wants.
The LAN created with the D-Central would be a constantly changing, environment with a range of about three blocks in the city and a mile in rural areas, with users joining or leaving as they wish, on their smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices. Files would be shared anonymously, and the D-Central's connectivity to the Internet would be anonymous. McAfee has indicated that, in addition to being a small, mobile LAN, his D-Central uses a completely new encryption method.
Of course, the NSA is not the only organization that might be concerned about anonymous users exchanging files. Book publishers, music companies and movie studios, among others, do not want users sharing copyright-protected files without a trace. So, if the pressure from the NSA and the intellectual property industries is too great for the D-Central to be openly sold in the U.S., McAfee said he would sell the device from other countries.
McAfee has acknowledged that his D-Central could be used for such purposes as terrorist cells, but noted that phones can be as well.
McAfee has had a controversial career. He developed the software and founded the company that bears his name, but has also been sought for questioning by authorities in Belize about the killing of a neighbor. He has denied any involvement in the killing, and said he left Belize because he wouldn't pay a $2 million bribe to authorities.
The NSA's long arm was highlighted last week, when security firm RSA warned its customers against using a software component of its own BSAFE toolkit and Data Protection Manager security software, because it contained a random number generator that contained code the NSA helped developed.
The RSA warning actually came following a similar warning by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The code in question had been developed after NIST accepted a NSA proposal for that part of its cryptographic system. NIST said it had accepted the NSA contribution because other government agencies were already using it.