John McAfee may no longer be associated with the famous security company he founded, but he still writes about and consults on the topic, and he now claims to know the Ashley Madison “hack” was, in fact, data stolen by a “lone female who worked for Avid Life Media.”
His argument relies on two separate bits of evidence. First, McAfee says the files found in the leaked database contain some peculiarities that he wouldn’t expect a hacker to normally access. “The data contains actual MySQL database dumps,” he says, adding “this is not just someone copying a table and making [it] into a .csv file.”
In addition, the hack contains a lot of insider information. This includes employee stock options, the layout of the Ashley Madison offices, and the source code of every program ever written by the company’s employees. Further, McAfee says statements made by the alleged hackers seem to be hostile towards certain employees, like the company’s VP of Information Technology, and favorable towards others.
And how does McAfee knows the leaker is a woman? It’s all about the insults the hacker has levied. “The more telling was a statement calling men ‘scumbags’” says McAfee. “I think in any language this would suggest that a woman is speaking.” In addition to that, he notes the hacker’s first manifesto uses the term “spiteful” in reference to joining Ashley Madison after Valentine’s Day. According to McAfee, men have trouble even remembering Valentine’s Day exists, so the attacker must be a woman.
Serious legal issues continue to hound McAfee. Belize authorities sought him as a person of interest in a 2012 murder case, causing him to flee to Guatemala, where he was then deported to the United States. In early August, 2015, he was arrested in Tennessee on DUI charges and possession of a firearm while intoxicated.
McAfee has a great deal of experience in the security world, so his opinions cannot be easily dismissed. His theory about the type of files stolen, and the manner in which they were stolen, are likely worth closer examination. As such, it seems McAfee’s claims are best filed as plausible, but far from proven. All the evidence is circumstantial or grounded on broad generalizations. Personally, I’ll wait until more evidence makes these same connections before I entertain that they may be true.