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China, McAfee founder John McAfee has a
warning for you
AFP | Aug 16, 2016, 01.55 PM IST
BEIJING: China leads the world in connecting everyday devices to the internet, but is creating huge
hacking vulnerabilities for itself and others by doing so, renegade American software pioneer John
McAfee has warned.
Hackers had already been able to gain control of devices such as safes and heating controls, and take
over the computer systems of automobiles and aeroplanes, he said.
"China is taking the lead in putting intelligence into devices, from refrigerators to smart thermostats,
and this is our weakest link in cybersecurity ," he said in Beijing.
"I am hoping that in the short time I am here I can raise a warning flag that we have to take security of
these devices even more importantly than our large computers or our smart phones," he told a
conference of internet security professionals.
"Because there are so many more of these devices, and the more that are connected, then the higher the
risk of a potential hack becomes."
McAfee, 70, is the colourful founder of an antivirus software company who once fled Belize after
police sought to question him in a murder case.
He has since returned to the United States, where he announced he was running for president.
He amassed an estimated $100 million fortune during the early days of the internet in the 1990s, but
lost most of it to bad investments and the financial crisis.
John McAfee claims he can hack into WhatsApp
He was living with a 17-year-old girl in Belize when police came looking for him to discuss the killing
of his neighbour -- a crime of which he maintains his innocence. He was briefly incarcerated and fled
the Central American country.
McAfee's at times dire and alarming speech in Beijing came as his new company MGT Capital
prepares to launch cybersecurity products later this year.
"Our species has never before faced a threat of this magnitude. And we have not noticed it by and
large," he said.
"You may thinking I am exaggerating, that I am an alarmist. I am friends with many of the hackers who
have the capability to do enormous damage if they so chose."
Chinese companies such as Xiaomi have been praised for innovation in adding internet connectivity to
a variety of devices including air purifiers and rice cookers, allowing users to switch them on from
work or on their way home.
Such connections create serious new weaknesses that could leave users' networks especially vulnerable
to hacking, McAfee said.
But in a briefing with reporters he also commended Beijing's protection of its domestic internet, which
is heavily censored and blocks many foreign websites, for its seeming security against the large-scale
breaches seen recently in the US.
"You may notice that last year America suffered hundreds of major hacks from all around the world,"
he said, and added that he had "heard nothing" of similar hacks on China.
"Now perhaps that's the government's control of the press, I don't know," he said. "But I do know that
within certain industries of China, the awareness of cybersecurity threats is far greater than our
awareness in America."