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McAfee's Back, With Chadder

Embattled antivirus pioneer John McAfee backs Chadder, an app that promises private communications through server encryption.

After a brief absence, John McAfee is back in the news -- not for drug, murder, or prostitution allegations, this time, but for backing a new messaging app called Chadder. The app, currently in beta, promises private communications by using server encryption.

After you download the app, which is available for Android and Windows Phones, you choose a nickname, username, and password. Then you can either add your email address and phone number so others can find you, or generate a code that you can give to friends and family to find you.

"Chadder is an unprecedented messaging platform. We have developed this highly secure system with an extraordinary team of developers at the prestigious RIT [Rochester Institute of Technology]," McAfee said on his website. "Chadder is a fun and easy to use messaging app that happens to keep your communications private. So private that we can't see it ourselves."

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Initial reviews of the app are mixed. Some report difficulties finding friends and a handful of other bugs that make using it cumbersome. A disclaimer on its Google Play page reads, "This application is in beta! We published it quickly and there is not a lot of features. The team thought everyone should have access to private messaging."

While McAfee's news release says the new app was created by his development company, Future Tense Private Systems, its exact level of involvement isn't clear. The app appears to be developed by a New York startup called Etransfr, which comprises RIT graduate and undergrad students.

Lexi Sprague, RIT student and founder of Etransfer, says the app targets Gen Y, which, contrary to what many may think, does desire privacy and security.

"The social media industry is built around the consumer also being the product. Chadder is here to prove that young people want privacy just as much as adults do," she said. "The application is simple and straightforward with a lot of power given to the user."

Chadder sends communications through its secure servers, which tag messages with a special key before sending them to the recipient, according to the company. Although all messages pass through its servers, only encrypted text is stored. Etransfr claims that it can't read users' messages because only the recipients will have the keys needed to decrypt them.

The only other product from McAfee's Future Tense Secure Systems is called DCentral1, a privacy control app that scans the software on your mobile device and reports which permissions each app has granted.

McAfee made headlines in 2012 for his alleged involvement in a murder in Belize. Following the allegations, which McAfee denies, Intel disassociated its McAfee brand from his name. Since then, McAfee has popped up in a number of eccentric and bizarre videos.

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