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After six months, McAfee's system began to churn out optimized train-routing patterns. Unfortunately, he had also discovered LSD. He would drop acid in the morning, go to work, and route trains all day. One morning he decided to experiment with another psychedelic called DMT. He did a line, felt nothing, and decided to snort a whole bag of the orangish powder. People asked him questions, but he didn't understand what they were saying.
The computer was spitting out train schedules to the moon; he couldn't make sense of it. He ended up behind a garbage can in downtown St.
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Louis, hearing voices and desperately hoping that nobody would look at him. He never went back to Missouri Pacific. Part of him believes he's still on that trip, that everything since has been one giant hallucination and that one day he'll snap out of it and find himself back on his couch in St. From then on he felt like he was always one step away from a total breakdown, which finally came at Omex in He was snorting lines of coke off his desk most mornings, polishing off a bottle of scotch every day, and living in constant fear that he would run out of drugs.
His wife had left him, he'd given away his dog, and in the wake of what he calls a mutual agreement, he left Omex. He ended up shuttered in his house, with no friends, doing drugs alone for days on end and wondering whether he should kill himself just as his father had. Finally he went to a therapist, who suggested he go to Alcoholics Anonymous.
He attended a meeting and started sobbing. Someone gave him a hug and told him he wasn't alone. When the Madonna concert ended, McAfee's drunken guard finally emerged from his station and strolled over to find out what was going on. The police quickly surrounded him. They knew who he was: Austin "Tino" Allen had been convicted 28 times for crimes ranging from robbery to assault, and he had spent most of his life in and out of prison. The police lined everybody up against a rock wall as the sun rose.
A low, heavy heat filled the jungle. Everybody began to sweat when the police fanned out to search the property. As an officer headed toward an outlying building, one of McAfee's dogs cut him off, growled, and, according to police, went in for an attack. The cop immediately shot the dog through the rib cage. The police ignored him. They left the dead dog in the dirt while they rummaged through the compound. They found shotguns, pistols, a huge cache of ammunition, and hundreds of bottles of chemicals they couldn't identify.
McAfee and the others were left in the sun for hours. GSU commander Marco Vidal claims they were under the shade of a large tree. By the time the police announced that they were taking several of them to jail, McAfee says his face was turning pink with sunburn. He and Allen were loaded into the back of a pickup. The truck tore off, heading southeast toward Belize City at 80 miles per hour. McAfee tried to stay calm, but he had to admit that this was a bad situation.
He had walked away from a luxurious life—mansions on multiple continents, sports cars, a private plane—only to end up in the back of a pickup cuffed to a notoriously violent man. Allen pulled McAfee close so he could be heard over the roar of the wind. McAfee tensed. In two brothers in Pakistan coded the first known computer virus aimed at PCs. They weren't trying to destroy anything; it was simple curiosity. They wanted to see how far their creation would travel, so they included their names, addresses, and telephone numbers in the code of the virus.
They named it Brain after their computer services shop in Lahore. Within a year the phone at the shop was ringing: Brain had infected computers around the world. At the time, McAfee had been sober for four years and gotten a security clearance to work on a classified voice-recognition program at Lockheed in Sunnyvale, California. He found the idea terrifying. Nobody knew for sure at the time why these intrusions were occurring. It reminded him of his childhood, when his father would hit him for no reason. Now, faced with a new form of attack that was hard to rationalize, he decided to do something.
His business plan: Create an antivirus program and give it away on electronic bulletin boards.
McAfee didn't expect users to pay. His real aim was to get them to think the software was so necessary that they would install it on their computers at work. They did. Within five years, half of the Fortune companies were running it, and they felt compelled to pay a license fee. His success was due in part to his ability to spread his own paranoia, the fear that there was always somebody about to attack. Soon after launching his company, he bought a foot Winnebago, loaded it with computers, and announced that he had formed the first "antivirus paramedic unit.
The RV therefore was not just an RV; it was "the first specially customized unit to wage effective, on-the-spot counterattacks in the virus war. It was great publicity, executed with drama and sly wit. A major disaster seems inevitable. In McAfee told almost every major news network and newspaper that the recently discovered Michelangelo virus was a huge threat; he believed it could destroy as many as 5 million computers around the world.
Sales of his software spiked, but in the end only tens of thousands of infections were reported. Though McAfee was roundly criticized for his proclamation, the criticism worked in his favor, as he explained in an email in to a computer-security blogger: "My business increased tenfold in the two months following the stories and six months later our revenues were 50 times greater and we had captured the lion's share of the anti-virus market.
This ability to infect others with his own paranoia made McAfee a wealthy man.
The jail cell was about 10 feet by 10 feet. The concrete floor was bare and cold, the smell of urine overpowering. A plastic milk container in the corner had been hacked open and was serving as a toilet. The detention center was located in the Queen Street police station, but everybody in Belize City called it the Pisshouse. In the shadows of his cell, McAfee could see the other inmates staring at him.
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No charges had been filed yet, though the police had confiscated what they said were two unlicensed firearms on McAfee's property; they still couldn't identify the chemicals they had found. McAfee said he had licenses for all his firearms and explained that the chemicals were part of his antibiotic research. The police weren't buying it. McAfee pulled 20 Belizean dollars out of his shoe and passed it through the bars to a guard.
McAfee hadn't smoked for 10 years, but this seemed like a good time to start again. McAfee lit one and took a deep drag. He was supposed to be living out a peaceful retirement in a tropical paradise. Now he was standing in jail, holding up his pants with one hand because the police had confiscated his belt.
McAfee fed the bag through two of his belt loops, cinched it tight, and tied a knot. It worked. McAfee lived in Silicon Valley for nearly 20 years. Outwardly he seemed to lead a traditional life with his second wife, Judy. He was a seasoned businessman whom startups turned to for advice. Stanford Graduate School of Business wrote two case studies highlighting his strategies. He was regularly invited to lecture at the school, and he was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Roanoke College. In he started a yoga institute near his 10,square-foot mansion in the Colorado Rockies and wrote four books about spirituality.
Even after his marriage fell apart in , he was a respectable citizen who donated computers to schools and took out newspaper ads discouraging drug use. But as he neared retirement age in the late s, he started to feel like he was deluding himself. His properties, cars, and planes had become a burden, and he realized that he didn't want the traditional rich man's life anymore.
Maintaining so many possessions was a constant distraction; it was time, he felt, to try to live more rustically. She remembers him telling her once that he was trying to reach "the expansive horizon.
He was also hurting financially. The economic collapse in hit him hard, and he couldn't afford to maintain his lifestyle. By he'd auctioned off almost everything he owned, including more than 1, acres of land in Hawaii and the private airport he'd built in New Mexico.
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He was trying in part to deter people from suing him on the assumption that he had deep pockets. He was already facing a suit from a man who had tripped on his property in New Mexico. Another suit alleged that he was responsible for the death of someone who crashed during a lesson at a flight school McAfee had founded. He figured that if he were out of the country, he'd be less of a target.
And he knew that, should he lose a case, it would be harder for the plaintiffs to collect money if he lived overseas. In early McAfee started searching for property in the Caribbean. His criteria were pretty basic: He was looking for an English-speaking country near the US with beautiful beaches. He quickly came across a villa on Ambergris Caye in Belize. In the early '90s he had visited the nation of , people and loved it.
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