Written by Natalie MootzNatalie has been writing for the web since dinosaurs roamed the earth. Or at least since dinosaurs achieved blogging technology. She's also written for About.com and Joystiq.
Fox television host Stuart Varney allegedly demonstrated live on his television program how the infamous Sony hack might have occurred. During a segment called "The Cyber Threat," Varney interviewed John McAfee who purported to know "exactly" how the Sony hackers broke into the entertainment firm's systems.
McAfee, who founded the eponymous security software company in 1994 and who now describes himself as an eccentric millionaire, then offered to pull the rabbit out of the hat. On live TV, Varney appeared to get a call from Fox HQ -- which McAfee claimed was actually himself calling after hacking Varney's voicemail password.
McAfee alleged that the Sony hackers used mobile phone voicemail to fake calls with a spoofed caller ID garnered from the recipient's own contact list. After this relatively low-tech effort, McAfee asserts that the hackers then used "social engineering" techniques to trick people into giving them their system passwords. McAfee said that most people share "common traits" that can prove to be weaknesses which hackers can capitalize upon: greed, fear, and ambition.
For example, the hackers could claim they were calling from the FBI in order to scare people into providing their passwords. When asked how he obtained this information, McAfee asserted that he simply "knows" how "all" hacks happen.
Additionally, McAfee threw out fascinating non-sequitur when he compared his phony "hacker" personality to Zaphod Beeblebrox, a character from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. (A reference, it should be noted, which appeared to go totally over Varney's head). In Adams's book, Beeblebrox is the ultra-cool president of the galaxy who stole the universe's most amazing spaceship right from under everyone's noses. In light of this reference, I am forced to wonder if McAfee's Fox appearance wasn't in fact a meta-prank that he played on Varney's own "common traits" in order to get some free television airtime. Well played, crazy millionaire, well played.
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