John McAfee knows who hacked Sony Pictures
John McAfee, the anti-virus pioneer, says he knows who is behind the attack on Sony Pictures and while he won't identify the group, guarantees it is not North KoreaReuters

Anti-virus pioneer John McAfee claims to have been in contact with the group of hackers behind the devastating cyber-attack against Sony Pictures and guarantees they are not from North Korea.

Speaking to IBTimes UK about his current roster of security startups under his Future Tense brand - including secure messaging app Chadder - McAfee spoke about working with the FBI previously but said that, in this case, the agency was "wrong".

"I can guarantee they are wrong. It has to do with a group of hackers - I will not name them - who are civil libertarians and who hate the confinement the restrictions the music industry and the movie industry has placed on art and so they are behind it."

In December Sony Pictures was the victim of a devastating cyber-attack by a group calling themselves Guardians of Peace. They crippled the studio's internal systems and stole vast troves of sensitive data, including unreleased films and private email conversations.

The group eventually threatened violence if the studio released the film The Interview, which pokes fun at North Korea, and Sony Pictures capitulated and failed to release it in cinemas. The FBI, who have been investigating the attack, have blamed North Korea for the attack though concrete evidence has yet to be shown publicly.

'I don't want to name them - that would make me a nark'

The 69-year-old McAfee indicated that he has been in touch with the hackers, adding that, like most hacking groups, its members are located around the world.

McAfee said he agreed with the reasons the hackers attacked Sony Pictures.

According to McAfee, the group attacked Sony Pictures as it is indicative of an industry which is "controlling the content of art," adding "I'm sorry but I don't like that myself. I don't like it one iota."

McAfee said he was not going to identify the group behind the attack because he doesn't want to be a "nark" adding "I don't mind that the North Koreans are blamed, I'm not particularly happy with what the North Koreans are doing."

McAfee said that no one was being hurt by the FBI's accusations, that they were not arresting anyone and putting them in jail. However it should be noted that the US government has used the FBI's accusation to impose further sanctions on the country as well as 10 officials.

"Maybe [North Korea] have been wrongly accused in this case, but they have not been accused in cases where they should have been accused."

On the run

John McAfee has been accused of stalking a property manager in Oregon.
McAfee says that he always travels with 10 guns on his person as drug cartels and the Belize government are looking for him

McAfee first rose to prominence in the 1980s as a security software pioneer with his eponymous company McAfee Associates.

He has been in the news in recent years for his more outlandish behaviour. In November 2012 he went on the run from police in Belize, where he was wanted for questioning in relation to the murder of his neighbour Gregory Faull.

McAfee's whereabouts are not known at the moment, but he was last seen in Portland, Oregon where he was evicted from his apartment for apparently stalking a property manager.

Talking about his relationship with hackers, McAfee said he has gone from being their opponent and enemy to their confidant:

"I founded McAfee Associates and they [hackers] were my enemies for years as were all other hacking groups, but over the years I began to respect their values at least, I had talks with many of them on the phone. I know many people within Anonymous, I was the keynote speaker at Defcon in Las Vegas and got a standing ovation."

McAfee added: "I'm not saying that their methods have my approval but I am saying is that the reason they do the things that they do is valid."

Anonymous help

The on-the-run rebel told one story about how his relationship with hackers has evolved over the years.

When McAfee was in Belize and it came to light he was being sought for questioning about the murder of his neighbour Gregory Faull, McAfee fled the country.

In what was a show of solidarity with McAfee, Anonymous attacked the internet infrastructure in Belize, shutting down the computer systems of the government for three days.

This, however, prevented McAfee from posting a message on his blog, which he had just started using to update people on his status and whereabouts.

McAfee managed to get in touch with a member of Anonymous and pleaded with them to stop the attack, even though the hacktivist group believed it was showing solidarity with him.

Within an hour of the message being sent, McAfee said the computers were back up and running.

'Hackers want freedom - and I support them'

This is not to say that he entirely agrees with everything a group like Anonymous does:

"I do not always condone their means [shutting down the Bank of America] although what they are trying to do was show solidarity with the founder of Wikileaks, which I approve of.

"These people [hackers] by and large have good hearts, they want freedom, freedom of expression, freedom to live unobserved and I am solidly, solidly behind that."

McAfee was at pains to point out that he was not indicating it was a group necessarily associated with Anonymous which was behind the Sony Pictures attack.