Loading the player...

Even if you think you don’t know who John McAfee is, you absolutely do—he created the anti-virus software that bears his name. He started McAfee Associates in the 1980s, at a time when not enough people owned computers to even care what a virus was—an innocence that obviously did not last long.

The cowboy of the cyber tech world, McAfee is not your typical Silicon Valley tycoon—he has gone on the record talking about his previous drug habit; he is a vocal gun enthusiast; and this year he ran and lost a bid to be the Libertarian candidate in the US Presidential elections.  His most notorious life episode—in which he went off the grid in Belize, built a compound and alleged "harem," and was accused of murdering his neighbor—is the subject of a Showtime documentary premiering Sep. 24, 2016, entitled "Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAffee."

McAfee talked to Investopedia’s tech columnist David Garrity about his latest venture, MGT Capital Investments, which is devoted to acquiring advanced cybersecurity technologies. (Related: Why Tech Giants are Acquiring Cyber Security Companies)

His Madonna-like ability to reinvent himself has made him unafraid to leave the past in the past—going so far as to declare that his own invention is obsolete. As he told Investopedia, “10 years ago I said [to an audience in China], anti-virus software is dead, it no longer works.”

But being out of the anti-virus game in no way means that McAfee is out of the cybersecurity game; on the contrary, he wants to improve it.

“The new paradigm has to stop the hacker getting in, which is much more complex than finding malware,” he said.

He told Investopedia about Sentinel, one of MGT’s products, which is “a little black box” that catches anomalies before they become full-blown attacks. “If someone from a Russian IP address just looked at every single device on our network—within 10 minutes, the information security officer gets a message.... At that point it’s not an attack, it’s reconnaissance. We catch them while they’re doing reconnaissance.”

“We have to befriend the hackers”

McAfee’s secret weapon? Befriending the enemy—which is to say, he has hired a seeming supervillain cabal comprising some of the world’s most famous hackers, including a man who had been detained by the FBI in 2015 for hacking into some 20 flight systems.

“All of my programmers are hackers,” he said. “If you’re building a safe, who are you going to hire to design it? Wouldn’t you choose the world’s best safecracker?”

But how can he trust employees who have a proven track record of creating mayhem? This is where we get a glimpse of McAfee’s obvious sense of humanity and surprising idealism. “Most hackers are white hat—good people. Why do they turn bad? We force them into it. We have to befriend the hackers.”

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.