Security maverick John McAfee slammed government attempts to introduce backdoors into software as foolhardy, saying it will enable hackers to gain access to the applications we use.
Speaking at a keynote speech at the Infosec show in London, McAfee said that we “cannot allow a fearful government or fearful institution to create weaknesses in the very software that we are trying to protect.”
“By putting backdoors into software we have given hackers the access that we are trying to prevent. People are human, if there is a backdoor, the access to that backdoor will become available to hackers eventually. We know this for a fact,” he said.
There’s no point in having a backdoor unless someone knows about it – and people are already the weakest link in security. “Someone has to know that there is this backdoor. The programmer, the company, the government agency that has access,” said McAfee. “At some point one of these people in this chain is going to be in a situation where they are about to lose their house, or their job, or they owe a lot of money and disaster is coming. That person is then the weak link in the chain.”
McAfee said that if that someone was not going to get the pay rise they were expecting of that a job review didn’t go as well as they thought, “they are going to get ticked off and then they are going to release the backdoor information; we are human.”
He added that the reason we have software is to prevent the human mistakes that we make. “Computers add numbers rather than ourselves because we don’t add them up correctly,” he said.
“Why are we then creating software and giving up information to humans that are the weak link in this chain so that humans can monitor us,” he asked. “We didn’t create a government to tell us what to do, what to think, to watch over us. We created a government to serve us, to build roads and schools and the things that we need; not to say you might be the enemy.”
He said that if the government thinks you are the enemy then perhaps you are. “This is something you need to think about. Do you want a government that looks at you as the potential harm?”
He added that this was a “creeping insanity that must stop if we are to have any sort of security.”