Security & Fraud

AT&T Breaks Seizure-Causing Tweet Case

AT&T can be credited with cracking the identity of a Twitter user who sent an image that caused seizures to a Newsweek journalist.

According to a report in the Verge, the break in the case, which resulted in the arrest of John Rivello of Salisbury, Maryland, came three months and a day after the tweet was sent. The break came thanks to AT&T, which was supporting Tracfone’s SIM card.

While AT&T didn’t have any identifying data, the company’s toll records showed that the SIM card had been used by an iPhone 6. That sent investigators looking for an iCloud account linked to the same number. After another search warrant to Apple, they got what they were looking for.

The detective work, thanks to AT&T, underscores just how difficult it is to remain anonymous with technology. According to the report, Apple has resisted requests by law enforcement to break encrypted phones, but it does typically cooperate with search warrants for iCloud accounts. Apple provided data on 7,963 accounts in the first six months of 2016, noted the report.

For Twitter, the incident is just another black eye for the embattled social media network operator that has been dealing with lackluster user growth and claims that 48 million user accounts are bots. Twitter and other social media companies are also reeling from fake news showing up on their feeds and have vowed to fight back.

Last week a tweet from the verified Twitter account of McDonald’s relayed a controversial message to President Donald Trump. Moments after the tweet was posted and pinned to the top of the account page, McDonald’s removed the message and confirmed its account was “compromised.” It remains unclear if that means a hacker gained access to the account or if the message was sent by an employee, CNNTech reported.

The tweet, which has been removed, said: “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.” Roughly an hour later, McDonald’s tweeted: “Twitter notified us that our account was compromised. We deleted the tweet, secured our account and are now investigating this.”

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