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May 16, 2016

McAfee Says Android Flaw Allowed Him, His Team to Circumvent WhatsApp Encryption

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Tech innovator and presidential hopeful John McAfee is claiming he and his team of hackers have discovered and used a major Android security flaw to crack encrypted WhatsApp messages.

John McAfee speaks out at Def Con 2014. - photo by NullSession.

John McAfee speaks out at Def Con 2014. – photo by NullSession.

McAfee told Cybersecurity Ventures that WhatsApp’s security is not at fault. Rather, it is Google’s Android operating system that contains the “serious design flaw” that enabled the eccentric tech expert’s team to gain access to just about everything on Android Smartphones, including encrypted messages on WhatsApp. McAfee added that he and his team can just as easily access Snapchat messages.

The WhatsApp message accessed by McAfee’s team was written and sent by two security researchers (who knew about the test) from cyber-security intelligence and digital forensics firm LIFARS, out of New York City. To gain access to the Smartphones an app was written by McAfee’s crew and it was subsequently downloaded onto the phones of the LIFAR researchers.

LIFARS CEO Ondrej Krehel confirmed McAfee’s assertions to Cybersecurity Ventures and, in a memo, said the phones were plagued by a spyware app and a keyboard recording flaw.

Neither Krehel nor McAfee would go into detail about the flaw, saying they want to discuss the issues with Google first.

McAfee said he did not go looking for a flaw to obtain a reward or compensation of any kind.

“I have been warning the world for years that we are teetering on the edge of an abyss, that our cyber security paradigms no longer function, and that chaos will descend if something is not done,” he said. “The fundamental operating system (Android), used by 90 percent of the world, and that should be the first bulwark against malicious intrusion, is flawed. Should I not bring this to the world’s attention through a dramatic demonstration? Do I not owe it to the world?”

Aside from being famous for founding his own anti-virus software firm, McAfee is also known for his brush with the law in Central America. He was a person of interest in a shooting death in Belize and spent a month on the run with a 20-year-old girlfriend. The news story garnered global attention due to his contact with reporters and frequent blog posts detailing his escapades, which included donning disguises and hiding out in dingy motel rooms — and even the jungle.

McAfee was arrested in Guatemala Dec. 4, 2012 and was deported back to the U.S. soon afterward.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.