McAfee's rise and downfall via technology

Computer protection guru John McAfee’s high-profile run from the law is over after his arrest in Guatemala. A simple slip in digital security may have helped lead to his capture.

Guatemala National Police/AP
In this image released by Guatemala's National Police on Wednesday, software company founder John McAfee sits after being arrested for entering the country illegally Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012 in Guatemala City. The anti-virus guru was detained at a hotel in an upscale Guatemala City neighborhood with the help of Interpol agents hours after he said he would seek asylum in the Central American country.

Computer protection guru John McAfee’s high-profile run from the law is over, and it may have been a simple slip in digital security that helped lead to his downfall.

Mr. McAfee, on the run for nearly a month since his neighbor in Belize turned up dead, was arrested Wednesday in Guatemala for crossing into the Central American country illegally. He is being held in a detention center with other migrants, authorities say.

Guatemalan authorities say he will be sent back to Belize, where he is wanted for questioning related to his neighbor's death. Fernando Lucero, spokesman for Guatemala’s immigration office, tells the Monitor that the timetable for doing so was not clear.

“This is a matter in the hands of the courts,” Mr. Lucero says. “At this time, we have no court order.”

For a man on the run, McAfee has been in the public spotlight frequently in recent days, granting interviews with television reporters and writing regularly on a blog WhoIsMcAfee.com. All the while, he was doing so from a concealed location.

Among those to reach him were video journalists from the magazine and website Vice who are planning an “epic” documentary about the ordeal. But in promoting their access, the journalists accidentally revealed McAfee’s location.

An iPhone photo

In an update on the Vice website titled “We are with John McAfee right now, suckers,” the journalists released an iPhone photo with metadata that included the exact coordinates of McAfee’s location. They were in Rio Dulce, a small town near Guatemala’s Caribbean coast not far from the Belize border.

After initially suggesting the co-ordinates were manipulated to hide his location, McAfee later wrote on his blog: “Yesterday was chaotic due to the accidental release of my exact co-ordinates by an unseasoned technician at Vice headquarters.”

A day later, McAfee was in Guatemala City, where he was planning a press conference until he was arrested. On his blog, he wrote, “I am in jail in Guatemala. Vastly superior to Belize jails. I asked for a computer and one magically appeared. The coffee is also excellent.”

It was an unexpected turn for McAfee, who amassed a fortune building software to prepare against security threats. (He sold the company in 1994.)

In hiding, McAfee has displayed a streak of paranoia fitting for a man who built a fortune in security. Belizean authorities have said he’s not a suspect in the murder of Gregory Faull, a neighbor on the small island of Amergris Caye who was found dead on Nov. 11.  

Yet, McAfee has claimed Belizean authorities would kill him once in custody. He left the country, slipping through a porous border into a lightly populated area of Guatemala.

Mr. Faull had reportedly complained about McAfee’s rowdy lifestyle and his pack of dogs that occasionally bit passersby. On Nov. 9, four of the dogs died of poisoning. Two days later, Faull was shot in the head in his home.

McAfee has insisted he has nothing to do with the death and authorities have said they only want to question him. It looks like they’re about to get their chance.

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