Infosec daredevil John McAfee claims he became a spymaster in Belize after giving laptops infected with espionage malware to police and government officials.
McAfee, who moved to the central American low-tax haven some years ago, further claimed he supervised a ring of 23 women and six men as operatives, and tasked them with striking up relationships with targets and extracting secrets.
The eccentric millionaire hatched the scheme after a crack Belizean cop squad raided one of his properties, shot one his dogs and seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in kit. The Gang Suppression Unit was searching for a supposed meth lab and guns but found nothing. No charges were brought but the incident put the founder of antivirus biz McAfee Inc at loggerheads with the authorities.
In a quest to exact revenge after receiving no apology for the bungled bust, McAfee set himself up as a spymaster, as explained in a lengthy article on his official WhoIsMcafee.com blog:
I purchased 75 cheap laptop computers and, with trusted help, installed invisible keystroke logging software on all of them – the kind that calls home (to me) and disgorges the text files. It also, on command, turns on and off the microphone and camera – and sends these files on command.
I had the computers re-packaged as if new. I began giving these away as presents to select people – government employees, police officers, cabinet minister’s assistants, girlfriends of powerful men, boyfriends of powerful women.
I hired four trusted people full time to monitor the text files and provide myself with the subsequent passwords for everyone’s email, Facebook, private message boards and other passworded accounts. The keystroke monitoring continued after password collection, in order to document text input that would later be deleted. So nothing was missed…
I next collected my human resources for the complex social engineering I would have to do. I arranged with 23 women and six men to be my operatives. Eight of the women were so accomplished that they ended up living with me. It was amazingly more efficient and they were easily convinced to check up on each other. One was so accomplished that she became a double agent and nearly got me killed.
The tech tycoon claimed he infiltrated two national telcos using his operatives in order to tap the phone lines of his enemies. He further claimed various social engineering tricks were put into play.
In all, McAfee reckons he set up an extensive spook network with tentacles into every aspect of life in Belize. By his own account, the malware maverick was looking for evidence of corruption to turn the tables on those who trashed his property.
But what he apparently found were details of extramarital affairs and far more disturbing information. He alleged data uncovered showed that officials were helping Hezbollah-aligned terrorists to get Belizean passports and identification cards.
Mostly this supposed intelligence came from electronic taps on immigration department computers but McAfee claims he had some human intelligence as well:
I had located an individual working in immigration who was trustworthy and willing to talk. I discovered that an average of eleven Lebanese males were given new identities each month. One month there were sixteen.
McAfee claims he sent one of his female operatives to befriend one of these Lebanese militants, who supposedly turned out to be sexually violent and intent on using Belizean papers to gain entry to the United States:
Belize is clearly the central player in a larger network whose goal is to infiltrate the US with individuals having links to terrorist organizations. What is different today from the wholesale Belizean passport selling of ten years ago, is that the false citizenships that are created for these men are coupled with a network of handlers designed to move the individuals, and their cargo, into the US