John McAfee: FBI should let me hack iPhone

John McAfee: I can crack the iPhone
John McAfee: I can crack the iPhone

Cybersecurity pioneer John McAfee wants authorities to stay away from Apple's encryption, so much that he has offered to personally crack the iPhone used by one of the shooters in last year's San Bernardino, California, attack.

The McAfee antivirus software creator and outspoken libertarian fears that Apple's compliance could lead to a so-called backdoor for government access, leaving users more vulnerable to malicious hackers. He claims that handling it himself would leave consumers safer.

"There has never been a backdoor that has not been hacked into by bad hackers or foreign nations. So really, what the government is asking Apple to do is to make every individual who uses an iPhone susceptible to hacking by bad people," McAfee argued on CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Friday.

McAfee, a self-described "cybersecurity legend" and presidential hopeful, first offered to decrypt the iPhone in a Thursday opinion piece on Business Insider.

John McAfee
Louis Lanzano | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Justice Department filed a motion Friday to compel Apple to assist investigators in accessing data on the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the 2015 attack, which left 14 people dead. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote this week that the government could eventually "extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software" to gather personal data.

The government has maintained that it would only seek the access for this specific phone and investigation. Numerous lawmakers and prosecutors have argued that tech firms should be willing let police through some of their defenses to prevent future attacks.

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McAfee, though, believes the FBI would want a backdoor, which he called "idiotic." Since the method it wants to use is based on software, the platform could eventually be replicated by malicious hackers, he argued.

He claims that he and a team of hackers could extract the data in three weeks without creating a backdoor. His arguments, of course, spark the question of why he could crack the phone without Apple's help when the FBI could not.

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McAfee argued that the U.S. government is "20 years behind the rest of the world" on cybersecurity.

"All of the great hackers are not the type who want to wear suits, shine their shoes and show up to work every day," McAfee said, adding many talented hackers "want to smoke weed while they work."

He said the U.S. is "ill-prepared" for increasingly complex cyberattacks launched from foreign soil.

The FBI and Apple did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.