John McAfee on cyber espionage
Veteran cyber security expert John McAfee talks to Hannah Kuchler about state sponsored hacking and the latest WikiLeaks revelations on the CIA's espionage tools.
Produced by Ben Marino. Footage by Reuters
Wikileaks recently published documents that they claim to be from the CIA. The documents purported to show that the agency has the ability to hack into smartphones from major brands like Google and iOS, and smart devices like smart TVs. I spoke to John McAfee, the antivirus pioneer, about what the Wikileaks revelations mean for cyber security, whether America is losing the cyber war, and what will happen next.
So what did last week's Wikileaks about the CIA show us about the state of cyber security?
Well, it showed us that nothing is impossible, if you're a state actor, in terms of spying on people, developing cyber weapons. It showed us that the CIA, I think, has an absolute lack of conscience, by keeping from American industry all of the zero-day exploits-- many of which the CIA created, by the way-- from the industry. Which makes our industry weaker and costs us billions of dollars, and makes us far more unsafe as citizens. So to me, that's unconscionable.
It showed what I've been saying all along, that anyone can make a hack look like it originated from someone else. This is the easiest of all things, and the CIA just admitted that and explained how they do that. But it's clear now that we're living in 1984. The only difference is, we're free to walk around, so far. But we are spied on by everything, from our TVs to the cameras in the streets to our smartphones.
You've been in cyber security for a long time now. Do you think we're still losing a cyber war?
People talk about the cyber war. I wish it were that simple. This is not like where we go to war against Germany or Russia or Iran or Iraq. No, this is not like that at all. The players in the cyber war are nation states, organised hacking groups, and individual hackers. I mean, sometimes, teenagers who are grounded at home and they want to lash out at something. So they hack something-- maybe the DNC. I've insisted all along that it was a very naive hacker who did hack the DNC, and certainly not the Russians.
So we have players that, all of them, are armed with very sophisticated, weaponised software. Proof of point-- $100 billion was spent developing the hacking group within the CIA and all of the weaponised software that they produced. All that was taken-- all of the weaponised software. And Wikileaks may even be letting some of it out. So I guarantee that all of that software is going to be on the dark web within a year, and 15-year-old kids will be able to buy it for $100.
This is what-- this is what our governments and our industry do not understand. It's not like nuclear weapons, where you can keep them contained in a bunker with armed guards and it costs billions of dollars to create one, or even to duplicate one. No, software, once you have it, I can take a disc, copy it for nothing, and I now have $100 billion worth of weapons.
And is there any kind of hope in the technologies that are being developed that could change the situation on cyber security?
Well, there are a lot of promising new technologies. Certainly, the blockchain, which is the software and mathematical algorithms which power bitcoin and many other alternative currencies. And it is being applied all over. In fact, I just read an article where over 40% of the world's large corporations are spending at least $5 million this year alone to apply or to study applying the blockchain to their businesses. So that's one thing. We've also come to understand that antivirus software is completely useless and has to be replaced with a new paradigm. And that new paradigm will have to include both software and hardware.