Security

John McAfee tripped up by the smartphone

The case of John McAfee just gets weirder. Here's how he was tracked down in Guatemala, where he is currently seeking asylum from Belize authorities.

Antivirus pioneer John McAfee, wanted for questioning as a person of interest in the murder of his neighbor in Belize, has been on the run from authorities ever since the incident occurred. But even in hiding, McAfee hasn't exactly been quiet. Declaring his innocence, he has blogged, tweeted, and given interviews to reporters. Apparently, he's new to this "fugitive" business. He has said that he fears if he turns himself in, he will be killed. It's a lurid tale that has only become stranger as the media has dug into his rather colorful life beyond the founding of the security software company that bears his name.

For weeks his exact whereabouts were unknown, but not so any longer. The Washington Post reports that McAfee was finally run to ground, not by any law enforcement authority or intense pursuit, but by a simple smartphone mistake: a reporter from Vice magazine posted a photo of his subject online with all the metadata intact. It didn't take long for a hacker who calls himself Simple Nomad to pin down his location, courtesy of an iPhone 4S: “Latitude/longitude: 15° 39’ 29.4 North, 88° 59’ 31.8 West,” at 12:26 p.m. Monday." Well, you can't get much more exact than that!

McAfee tried to cover his tracks with a blog post in which he claimed to have faked the iPhone data to fool police, but he came clean Tuesday morning with another post acknowledging that he was in Guatemala and soon would be meeting with a lawyer.

Oops. Perhaps, when allowing reporters to taunt your pursuers with a headline like, "We are with John McAfee right now, suckers," you should request that the Location Data is turned off on the phone.

For those who value their privacy, here are some tips and cautionary tales about smartphone security:

About

Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

21 comments
shaun.clarke
shaun.clarke

If the meta data was embedded in the picture, it hardly needs a 'hacker' to retrieve it. Just download the picture and open the files properties in Windows Explorer for example. It's interesting to note that any pictures uploaded to Facebook automatically get their metadata stripped - for obvious privacy reasons.

JoeyD714
JoeyD714

The coordinates given in the article: Latitude/longitude: 15° 39’ 29.4 North, 88° 59’ 31.8 West is an intersection in the Philippines.

Tony_Scarpelli
Tony_Scarpelli

The media has been pretty flippant about his accusations but for those who travel or live in Belize, the authorities do not get paid much. They expect tips to check on you, I do not doubt it at all that if he went in for the interview immediately he would have had to agree to pay very large sums of money to be exhonorated nothing to do with merit. They shake you down. Perhaps the media should do a special on law and order in Belize. As far as acting a certain way? How would you act if you were in a similar situation?

dimonic
dimonic

Apparently (according to WikiPedia)

Adam_12345
Adam_12345

I'm just waiting when they accuse him of having an affair with crack-addicted and aids-infected pit-bull :)

jmbaynes
jmbaynes

Do things that aren't so smart.

jdiazgt
jdiazgt

He's waiting today in a guatemalan prision for extradition right now, acording to reports, Interpol agents captured him yesterday while he was asking for asylum. I don't believe he's guilty, but time will tell..

fairportfan
fairportfan

For why his ant-virus works so well and uses so little of your computer's resources. He's a genius.

markbeckstrom
markbeckstrom

The Lat/Long given is in Guatemala. If you just cut/pasted it into Maps, it is not formatted correctly. Change the West to W and the North to N. i.e. 15 39 29.4 N, 88 59 31.8 W. You gotta know how to us Lat/Long!! OK when posting this the "degree" mark is removed after the 15 and 88, also the "minute" ' is removed. The degree mark can be typed by holding ALT and typing 248. You will need those to get Maps to understand. 15 39' 29.4 N, 88 59' 31.8 W

Tony_Scarpelli
Tony_Scarpelli

Do we know it was his phone or members of the media crew that interviewed him?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But I do know I wouldn't play "Catch me if you can" on line.

Vorpaladin
Vorpaladin

I didn't know ants could get viruses.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

At least not in Google Maps, as long as you maintain the spacing between degrees, minutes, and seconds.

Tony_Scarpelli
Tony_Scarpelli

If you felt first that they were going to shake you down so you hid from them, then that they are now going to kill you, your only safety might be to take the chance to let the US media know. This might have saved his life if what he says is at all accurate. Now with the USA watching maybe he could survive.

Tony_Scarpelli
Tony_Scarpelli

This comment is below the standards of this thread. Not appropriate.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

that a person so ridiculously inept with online communications could be the CEO of a such a large company specializing in just that either! Oh the irony.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If I was going to live as an expat, I would not choose Belize. Beautiful country, but not to my taste. And if I was going to live as an expat to avoid taxes, I would most likely simply go off-grid as much as possible and stay low-profile. I understand that McAfee's ego wouldn't allow him to do the latter.

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