How Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account could have been hacked
Anthony Weiner is about as uncensored online as he is offline. But is he really bold enough to post a photo of himself sans pants over a Twitter account?
I’m less interested in the politics of the matter than the technical evidence that could show whether the congressman sent the photo himself or if it was sent by someone else. Over the weekend, I posted my analysis on the authenticity of the photo behind the scandal. Weiner’s friend and former “freeloading” roommate, Jon Stewart, used my post from the other day on The Daily Show to illustrate some of the methods for how the congressman could have had his account hacked. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Every photo tells a story
Within just about every digital photo, there are clues left behind called “metadata” that identify the make and model of the camera used, the time the photo was taken and sometimes even the location the photo was taken at. I ran one of the earlier photos that Anthony Weiner had taken through several tools (here is one you can try yourself) that look at the “exif data” within the photo. Here was the result from this photo:
This tells us that the congressman usually shoots his Twitter images with a Blackberry 9650, with a pretty high resolution of 2,048 x 1,536. I then compared this data to the lewd image he was alleged to have sent to a young woman over Twitter.
Here’s the data I found for that image:
Notice a lot of the data that appeared in the earlier photos is missing in the scandalous photo that has Weiner in hot water. There is no make or model listed, and the dimensions of the photo are much smaller. This could indicate a few things. The data could have been stripped at some point because it was uploaded to yfrog or through some other service; it could have been taken by a camera, uploaded to a computer and then uploaded to yfrog; or it simply could have been edited with any photo application. There are applications that will allow you to go in and modify the metadata for a photo.
A special thanks goes to Joe Brooks who was able to get one of the few people who happened to view the larger version of the image before Weiner deleted it. Brooks walked this person through the process of finding the image on his computer, where it was cached. If you want to view the image, be aware it’s a large photo of a man in his underpants and click here.
It is important to note that 18 days prior to the incident, this person, named Dan Wolfe or @patriotusa76 on Twitter, mentioned a rumor he had heard many days before the image was sent that stated Weiner would be involved in a sex photo scandal soon:
Seems like a pretty odd coincidence, no? I’m not going to try and make heads or tails on this — I’ll lleave that for the lawyers — but it is something that should be investigated.
Others have done excellent jobs at looking at other aspects of how the congressman could or could not have been hacked. Philip Bump used to work for Adobe and is something of an expert when it comes to Photoshop. He looks at how the image could have been manipulated. Grace Lidia Suarez, a criminal defense lawyer, figured out how you could upload a yfrog image with nothing but an email address. A hacker wouldn’t even need Weiner’s twitter account details to make it appear the image was sent from his account.
The technical evidence is not conclusive but seems to lean in Weiner’s favor. Although his public comments seem to be undermining what evidence he has that helps him, which is what I told The Today Show this morning. He told Luke Russert of NBC News, Wolf Blitzer of CNN, and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC (who mentioned my exif post on her program last night) that he cannot say “with certitude” that that is not him in the photo. Weiner’s exact quote was “It certainly doesn’t look familiar to me, but I don’t want to say with certitude to you something that I don’t know to be the certain truth.” What exactly does he mean by that? Why couldn’t he just say yes or no? Instead, Weiner answered the question by pointing to some type of photo manipulation.
This leaves open the possibility that a photo of Weiner in some state of undress exists somewhere and someone was able to gain possession of it, either by hacking his computer or having it sent to them from Weiner or from someone he had sent it to previously.
If the congressman can’t say without a shadow of a doubt that the photo is of him, it leaves the case wide open.