Today, cybersecurity guru John McAfee said that the technology to track terrorist activity online already exists, but that the pieces are too disjointed to make an effective system. “We have it, but we’re not putting it all together,” he said on CNBC.
McAfee described a phone tracker produced by Harris Corporation called stingray that disguises itself as a cellphone tower, enabling it to connect to smartphones. Once connected with a phone, it sends an update that looks like a software update from your provider, but when it’s downloaded the software can intercept phone calls within a half a mile radius, track your location, and even trap keystrokes so a third party can read the message as you’re typing.
“We are looking for terrorists in America, but we’re not finding them,” McAfee said.
Security features like encryption prevent third parties from getting information, which has proven to be a problem in criminal and terrorism investigations. With Stingray, encryption wouldn’t get in the way since messages are only encrypted after they’re typed out. There are currently 100,000 Stingray devices in use, he said, and they have long been used before by police to track down criminals. “Why don’t we send [stingray] over [to Belgium] so they can use it?” McAfee asked.
CNBC also bluntly asked McAfee if he is the FBI’s new outside party that is giving investigators an alternate route to break into the iPhone 5C that was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. While he has said he would help the FBI for free, he confirmed that it isn’t him, but hinted he knows who it is.
“Apple and Tim Cook are not going to be happy with what the FBI has come up with,” he said. “It’s not worse than a universal master key, but it’s much much easier to get into a phone with it.”
“I’m not fond of it,” he concluded. When the FBI saw that Apple won’t comply, it thought “then hackers can do it, and that’s what’s happened here.”
McAfee is firm on his belief that a cyberwar is brewing, and that the U.S. government needs a stronger network of cybersecurity experts. “We have to hire the best hackers on the planet. If it were me, I would set up booths at DEF CON, and HackMiami, and every single hacker community and meeting group in America,” he told Inverse earlier this month.