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iCloud Leads Authorities to Journalist’s Twitter Attacker

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A Maryland man has been arrested on federal charges that he intentionally used an animated tweet to trigger an epileptic seizure in a Newsweek reporter who had been critical of US President Donald Trump.

John Rayne Rivello, 29, is charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The Twitter troll allegedly sent a seizure-inducing image to Kurt Eichenwald, thinking that an anonymous prepaid SIM card and a throwaway Twitter account would be enough to protect his privacy and help him escape any potential ramifications. It turns out the attacker was also an iPhone user, a significant detail that helped police track him down and arrest him. It all happened with the support of Twitter, AT&T, and Apple.

According to The Verge, the Dallas Police Department submitted a search warrant to Twitter, requesting information on Rivello’s “@jew_goldstein” account. Twitter responded by providing the agency with Rivello’s email address, wireless carrier, IP address, and the phone number for the cellphone Rivello used to operate Twitter’s app.

Twitter keeps an IP log on each of its users, recording his/her location every time that person logs into the program. It also keep a log of each Twitter user’s direct messages, and in this case, they turned that log over to the police, revealing that Rivello had, allegedly, discussed his plot to harm Eichenwald with other Twitter users.

The police then sent a request to AT&T for more information on Rivello’s phone. As It turns out, Rivello was using a Tracfone – or a “burner phone” – but AT&T retains metadata on its customers so that it can regularly charge them for using AT&T’s service.

Using that metadata, they were able to conclude that Rivello had an iPhone, and by extension, an Apple serial number, which revealed an iCloud account – so the police then filed a search warrant with Apple, and eventually arrested Rivello on Friday.

After Rivello’s arrest on Friday, Eichenwald tweeted, “Identifying information about every person who sent me strobes after finding out about the assault is currently in the hands of the FBI.” He added, “More than 40 ppl sent strobes once they found out they could trigger seizures. Details of their cases are with the FBI. Stop sending them.”

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