Calling it a “black day and the beginning of the end of the U.S. as a world power,” software developer John McAfee criticized the FBI on Thursday for attempting to force Apple to build a backdoor to access data from a terrorist’s iPhone, saying that he will decrypt the handset himself for free.
McAfee, an eccentric millionaire who is currently running for U.S. president on behalf of the Libertarian Party, believes that he and his team could hack into the iPhone in question without the need for a new, insecure version of iOS to be built by Apple. He shared his thoughts in an editorial published by Tech Insider.
“I would eat my shoe on the Neil Cavuto show if we could not break the encryption on the San Bernardino phone. This is a pure and simple fact.” – John McAfee
The former antivirus creator believes his team would be able to decrypt the information from the iPhone 5c at the center of the case within three weeks. He believes they will be able to unlock the iPhone “primarily” with social engineering.
McAfee argued that allowing him to unlock the iPhone free of charge will negate the need for Apple to go down a dangerous path, building a backdoor into iOS to allow access to investigators.
“If the government succeeds in getting this back door, it will eventually get a back door into all encryption, and our world, as we know it, is over,” he wrote. “In spite of the FBI’s claim that it would protect the back door, we all know that’s impossible. There are bad apples everywhere, and there only needs to be in the US government.”
McAfee’s confidence that his team could crack the iPhone is based on the fact that he does not believe the FBI would hire the type of people he works with. Specifically, he described “prodigies” who sport mohawk haircuts, ear piercings, tattooed faces, and one person “who demands to smoke weed while working and won’t work for less than a half-million dollars a year.”
“I would eat my shoe on the Neil Cavuto show if we could not break the encryption on the San Bernardino phone,” McAfee wrote. “This is a pure and simple fact.”
On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Apple to comply with FBI requests for assistance in unlocking an encrypted iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Ryzwan Farook. Law enforcement technicians are looking to facilitate a brute force attack, but need specialized software capable of bypassing iOS 9’s passcode counter.
Apple CEO Tim Cook took immediate action, vowing to fight government calls for privileged hardware access in a letter posted to his company’s website just hours after the order came down. For Cook, the issue has implications far beyond a single iPhone, an argument floated by the White House on Wednesday.