Intel kills off McAfee Security brand

Intel takes branding ownership of McAfee's computer security suite and severs founder John McAfee's name from the security software that has borne it for more than 20 years.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
3 min read
McAfee Mobile Security is about to get a new name, and some of its features will become free to use, too. Intel

Throughout the years of John McAfee's madman antics, the founder of computer security firm McAfee Security, always had his name associated with the shield logo of McAfee Antivirus and its variations.

But with a few sentences casually thrown out to the Consumer Electronics Show audience in Las Vegas on Monday evening, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich sounded the death knell for the McAfee brand, at least as far as it relates to consumer security.

The software will remain unchanged except for changing the name from McAfee Security to Intel Security. The iconic red McAfee shield will remain, for now, and some components of the mobile versions of the software will be free to use on iOS and Android devices. The rebranding is expected to take up to a year to complete.

"Intel is bringing its award-winning mobile security to every mobile device, phones, tablets, wearables," Krzanich said during Intel's keynote.

Intel said that it plans to release more details in the coming months. Mike Fey, McAfee's Chief Technology Officer and head honcho for the company's corporate products division, said that Intel will make decisions about which features are made free over the next three months. The desktop suites will change only their names, for now, while mobile malware protection will be free. Fey said that the freemium model that Intel chooses will not be based on advertising or "paid-for" success.

"You're not going to see a trickier approach. We are literally trying to do right by the industry," he said.

An entire generation of computer users were introduced to computer security through McAfee software. John McAfee founded the company in 1987 and left in 1994.

McAfee's security software had suffered in recent years from increased competition from free security suites and its slow entry into the iOS and Android markets. Less helpful, too, were lingering negative associations with the brand and other security suites from the early 2000s, when security suites were notorious for either failing at their assigned tasks or slowing down computers to a painful crawl.

For his part, McAfee himself was thrilled with the news. "I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet," he told the BBC. "These are not my words, but the words of millions of irate users. My elation at Intel's decision is beyond words."

For his part, Fey was unfazed by McAfee's repudiation of the company and flagship software he founded.

"I think at the heart of it is that we always had planned on consolidating our brand to the Intel brand," Fey said. "The McAfee shield is what's known across the globe. In some locations, they can't even pronounce McAfee correctly. So, that's what drove us."

John McAfee, Fey said, "hasn't been relevant in IT in 20 years."

Intel also plans to introduce the new Intel Device Protection app later this year, which is designed to help protect people using personal phones and tablets in work situations. In ditching the name McAfee, tainted by too many years of mistakes and its founder's buffoonery, Intel hopes to appeal to the more serious side of home and enterprise consumers.

Update at 2:25 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7 with comment from Intel and clarification about the rebranding.

Update at 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7 with comment from John McAfee.