John McAfee says his new smartphone will be 'as hack-proof as humanly possible'

Jason Murdock
John McAfee

Cybersecurity pioneer John McAfee has revealed more information about his plans to create an ultra-secure smartphone. It will cost roughly $1,100 (£850), be geared towards enterprise customers and, he claims, will be the most "hack-proof" mobile handset on the market.

McAfee said it will be the "world's first truly private smartphone" and is set to be released later this year through MGT Capital Investments Inc, his cybersecurity and cryptocurrency company that made waves earlier this year for its bitcoin-mining capabilities.

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In a blog post published this week (27 April), McAfee wrote: "We have given the keys to the kingdom, blindly and willingly, to the world's hackers.

"Pleas from the cybersecurity community to smartphone manufacturers to fix this this horrific problem by returning to the less 'cool' air gapped physical switches have fallen on deaf ears.

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"In desperation, I decided to do it myself.

"It is version one. It is not hack proof. But it does give the user enormous power over his or her privacy and it is light years ahead of the Blackphone or any other phone claiming to be secure. Version two will be available in early 2018.

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"It will be as hack proof as humanly possible."

He added: "The [smartphone has] switches on the back cover that allow the user to physically disconnect the battery, the antennas for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and geolocation, the camera and microphone, etc. It also will not allow the phone to connect to a Stingray or any other IMSI catcher."

"Enormous investment in hardware costs have gone into this," McAfee also told Newsweek.

Breaking the news on Twitter this week, McAfee addressed concerns about the device using a version of the Android operating system by saying: "Hardware has everything to do with security. Software has everything to do with insecurity."

On 14 March, MGT announced it had signed a "non-binding letter of intent" with the Nordic IT Sourcing Association to develop a secure smartphone. "We strongly believe that such a device will be the centre of attention," said Alexander Reay, Nordic IT's president, at the time.

"Smartphones are a huge target for attackers," Tim Erlin, vice president at Tripwire, said in a statement via email. "The more of our business that we conduct through that high powered computer in our pocket or purse, the more attractive a target it makes for cybercriminals."

Stephen Coty, chief cybersecurity expert at AlertLogic, added: "Securing smartphones is critical for day-to-day business for most enterprises as they can contain corporate chats, email, contacts and notes related to projects or corporate meetings.

"There is absolutely a need for a privacy-focused smartphone, or at least corporate controlled phones like the Blackberry Enterprise Server, where [the firm] has full control to remotely wipe, remove malicious applications, and insure patches are deployed.

"They can also make sure anti-virus, encryption, adware and malware finding software is installed. You can also install Tor browsers for safe, secure and untraceable browsing, and a VPN client to encrypt all communication originating from your mobile phone.

"This phone is a great concept, but until you lock it down to stop the actual user from being able to compromise themselves, there'll always be potential vulnerabilities."

Earlier this year, McAfee, in an address to MGT's shareholders, admitted the first iteration of his latest anti-hacking platform, dubbed Sentinel, was found to be vulnerable to hacking.

"I did what I always do, I designed the best product in the world, I gave it to the best hackers in the world and unfortunately they beat me," he said. "It was pretty darn good but that's not good enough for me," he added.

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