IT security veteran speaks at Infosec

‘No hope for security unless we separate work and personal devices’ – John McAfee

IT security veteran John McAfee says businesses must allow staff to keep their personal computing devices completely separate from their work PC.

In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, with many tech firms forcing users to access the same cloud accounts from all their devices (don’t even get me started on iTunes and Google Chrome), and how picking up work emails from personal devices is now becoming the norm, his words are a refreshing reminder of the importance of distancing the two for the sake of safety and security.

When asked about the idea of firms deploying tighter security restrictions on their employees and their own devices, McAfee told Infosecurity at this week’s Infosec Europe show: "It’s going to be very difficult to stop people from using their mobile devices – we’ve become so habituated to their convenience that people will just quit and go somewhere else.

"That won’t happen, but there has to be strict controls and separation between what someone does on their mobile device and what someone does on their corporate computing system.

"I think the world will have two separate issues. You will come to work and have your [personal] pad or mobile device and you can do what you want with that device, but there will be no connection between that device and what you do at work… It may sound like an inconvenience but in fact it is not.

"If you have your work computer and your mobile device, you just shift from your real work to Facebook at lunchtime and there’s no problem. But without that, there will be no hope of security either for the individual or the corporation."

However, his comments were in stark contrast to many security companies that PCR spoke to at Infosec this week, who suggested that in the future the split between work and personal devices will be a thing of the past, as the two become ever more blurred.

McAfee’s comments come after a woman was allegedly fired by her employer for deleting an app that tracked her movements.

McAfee added that ‘without privacy, we will have chaos’ and said that we can’t expect a government to keep us secure.

The founder of McAfee Security started up a new initiative Future Tense Central a few years back, and has now partnered with Starxx, which he says has "the most secure instant messaging platform for the enterprise that has ever existed".

He also said he is working on ‘social encryption’.

“It’s based on the concept that shared knowledge is something that simply cannot be acquired by anyone," McAfee said. "If you and I have a year’s worth of shared experience, no one can tap into that and get into the mind of what we have experienced. It’s a very sophisticated algorithm and has a layer of abstraction that is, I believe, completely impermeable. It cannot be broken into.”

McAfee explained he will have "probably the most secure applications for mobile devices", which allows users to lockdown their Bluetooth, camera, WiFi and more on a device, so no one can listen in or watch you.

"That should be built into the operating systems already – that’s the fundamental problem," he added. 

McAfee’s comments come as Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about the importance of user privacy, and slammed Google’s new free Photos service in all but name (this new service lets users upload as many photos as they like, but Google can access these photos).

"We at Apple reject the idea that our customers should have to make tradeoffs between privacy and security,” Cook said, as reported by Techcrunch.

“Some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetise it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.”

“We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.”

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