Cybersecurity forefather John McAfee is ringing in the New Year on a contentious note. The programmer turned multi-millionaire recently claimed that his Twitter was hacked in the days following Christmas, stating that a series of promotional coin of the day tweets were not his own. To complicate matters further, McAfee has come under fire from the crypto community recently for his seemingly capricious attitude towards Verge, a popular privacy coin.
“I am a target for hackers”
John McAfee’s Twitter has over 600k followers, in large part due to his former coin of the day tweets. McAfee began the practice in December of 2017, and he quickly became an investing mouthpiece that perked the ears of many community members.
According to McAfee, though, the same platform that has made him a fount for financial advice has also made him vulnerable to hackers looking to make a quick buck.
On December 27th, McAfee’s account was compromised as hackers rifled off multiple coin of the day tweets in a matter of minutes:
McAfee was quick to alert his followers to the developments, cautioning them that he had discontinued his quotidian promotions the day prior:
Urgent: My account was hacked. Twitter has been notified. The coin of the day tweet was not me. As you all know… I am not doing a coin of the day anymore!!!!
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) December 27, 2017
Though I am a security expert, I have no control over Twitter's security. I have haters. I am a target. People make fake accounts, fake screenshots, fake claims. I am a target for hackers who lost money and blame me. Please take responsibility for yourselves. Adults only please.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) December 28, 2017
In an interview with RT, McAfee admitted that the hacking method was “brand new” to him, claiming the hackers “managed to hack AT&T to move [his] phone number to another phone” so that they could change his account’s password. He also insinuated that, unless the job was some “secret method of hacking,” an AT&T employee could have been “bribed” to assist with the hit.
McAfee continued to claim resolutely that the hackers were looking to capitalize on the investing community he has cultivated through Twitter:
“Why would they do that? Because I was issuing every day a recommendation for new alternative coins, alternative to bitcoins cryptocurrencies. People would invest hundreds of dollars into these coins. What the hacker did was to recommended six different coins within six minutes and invested, I’m sure, much money beforehand into those”
“If they can do it for me they can do it for anyone,” he added, concluding the interview with the caveat that such advanced hacking methods could spell trouble for exchanges in the future. Citing Mt. Gox as an example of exchange vulnerability, McAfee predicted that “every exchange will at some point in the near future get hacked.”
The Verge Effect
While all of this was going on, McAfee was (and is) staring down the barrel of another controversy: his endorsement of Verge.
On December 13th 2017, John McAfee came out in favor of the popular privacy coin, tweeting the following day that Verge, trading for nearly $0.02 at the time, could feasibly see a $3.00 valuation in the future.
I am inundated by people asking me for recommendations on cryptocurrencies. If you would use your heads you would figure out that the privacy coins (anonymous transactions) will have the greatest future. Coins like Monero (XMR), Verge (XVG), or Zcash (ZEC) cannot lose.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) December 13, 2017
Trading at less than a cent going into December, Verge hit an all time high of $0.27 on Christmas Eve. Many believe that Verge has McAfee’s tweets and endorsements to thank for this meteoric appreciation.
And it’s easy to see why some in the community think as much. Around Christmas, rumors began circulating of McAfee speculating on Instagram that Verge could hit an astronomical $15 in 2018.
— CryptoSub (@CryptoSubs) December 25, 2017
Such a price leap would put Verge at a $225bln market capitalization, about $30bln shy of Bitcoin’s own. While possible, such a terrific rise is unlikely, and McAfee went to Twitter to deny that he ever made the predication.
To the Verge people: I stated that VERGE MIGHT possibly rise, over the long term, to $0.15 – which was an increase of 1,500% over its price st the time. If you believe I am so stupid as to predict a rise of 150,000% – which is $15 – then you need to back off on the drugs.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) December 27, 2017
McAfee claims that the predictions came from fraudulent accounts, warning his followers that Verge’s price has been artificially pumped as a result. He disavows ever setting up an official Instagram account, but community members are not convinced. In the comment sections of numerous tweets, Twitter users provided evidence that John McAfee created an Instagram for himself back in the early days of 2016.
I finally have an instagram account;https://t.co/NmXIdm5OcA
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) January 31, 2016
Defending himself, McAfee raised the familiar alarm that this was the outcome of yet another attack on his Twitter account:
“In early 2016 my Twitter account was taken over for nearly a month by an employee in a hostile move. There were thousands of acts of mischief during that time. When was the last alleged post from me on that Instagram account?”
Since facing questions from the community about the veracity of his Instagram posts, the posts in question have been deleted.
Verge’s Wraith Protocol Launches to Little Fanfare
Verge launched its Wraith Protocol, an update that allows the currency’s users to choose between transparent or anonymous transactions freely, on January 1st. And to add to the slew of Twitter publicity mishaps a la McAfee, Verge’s fan-base was unimpressed.
The protocol was slow to launch and buggy for certain users, according to Verge’s official Twitter. In addition, one Twitter user indicated that Wraith’s IP obfuscation was not functioning as intended.
Verge’s price dropped from its rise of $0.20 in anticipation of the release to $0.14 after the complications.
All the while, McAfee enters the cross hairs of continued controversy. Now, he faces accusation of blackmailing the Verge team, demanding compensation for his endorsements. According to leaked messages in a tweet by XVG Whale, a popular Verge investor, McAfee demanded $1mln in Ethereum for his promotions, otherwise he would withdraw his support. In the following days, XVG Whale has removed the posts, claiming that his own account was hacked, as well.
Between the host of alleged hacks, accusations, and online rumors, John McAfee’s involvement in Verge has woven itself into a messy thread of information and misinformation all knotted into one. We cannot verify the claims of extortion and fraud, nor do we know what to make of the counterclaims by McAfee and XVG Whale that hackers are the reason for this mess.
But the drama makes for an interesting showcase nonetheless.