The rise and fall of anti-virus tycoon John McAfee

Anti-virus Tycoon John McAfee, Security & Data, The rise and fall of anti-virus tycoon John McAfee

Yesterday evening, McAfee founder, John McAfee, died in his prison cell in Spain. Top Business Tech looks back at his life.

Founding the world’s first commercial anti-virus software 

He created the first-ever commercial anti-virus software. He founded McAfee Associates to sell the product and resigned in 1994, selling his stake in the company. However, he soon turned on the company he founded, openly criticising the company, branding the product as “bloatware.” 

McAfee enjoyed a wealth of US$100mn until he took a big hit during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Over the last three decades, McAfee founded other business ventures, including Tribal Voice and PowWow, QuorumEx, and Future Tense Central

Bringing cybersecurity to politics

In addition to his involvement in several cybersecurity companies, McAfee also entered into politics. In September 2015, he announced that he would run for president of the United States in the 2016 presidential election as the candidate of a political party called “The Cyber Party.” First, He used his position to advocate an increase in cybersecurity awareness but later re-announced his candidacy bid, seeking the nomination of the Libertarian Party. McAfee announced that he would run again for the 2020 election as a Libertarian, promoting the use of cryptocurrency. At the same time as his campaign, the IRS indicted him for tax-related felonies. McAfee continued to run as Adam Kokesh’s Vice President while also continuing his campaign for the presidency, eventually losing both positions.

Controversial charges 

McAfee was arrested in Guatemala as a “person of interest” following the discovery of his dead neighbour, Gregory Faull, by police in his home. He was released a week later. In October 2020, he was accused of tax evasion, owing four years of tax, totalling over $4mn according to prosecutors, and was arrested in Spain. While in prison, he was subject to further charges, including fraud, money laundering via his social media promotion of cryptocurrency. 


McAfee was informed that he would remain in prison for the rest of his life if he was extradited. Hours later, he was found dead in his cell. The Catalan Justice Department said in a statement that “everything indicates” suicide. McAfee indeed broke the mould on what a stereotypical cybersecurity pioneer looks like and will undoubtedly go down in history for both his entrepreneurial success and controversial lifestyle. 

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Anti-virus Tycoon John McAfee, Security & Data, The rise and fall of anti-virus tycoon John McAfee

Amber Donovan-Stevens

Amber is a Content Editor at Top Business Tech