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iCloud led authorities to journalist's Twitter attacker

The accused sent a journalist a strobing image which allegedly triggered an epileptic seizure.
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Ellica_S via Getty Images

The man who triggered Newsweek journalist Kurt Eichenwald's epileptic seizure through Twitter used a prepaid phone with no identifying info. But a little digging revealed that the Tracfone prepaid SIM card he used was once connected to an iCloud account, which ultimately led to his arrest. According to the newly surfaced documents The Verge shared, authorities started by sending a court order to Twitter to ask for the details behind the @jew_goldstein account. If you'll recall, that user sent Eichenwald a "weaponized tweet" containing a strobing image with the words "You deserve a seizure for your posts." The recipient often talks about his condition, so the sender likely knows that the journalist is epileptic.

The details Twitter handed over didn't have a lot of useful details, but it did reveal the Tracfone number @jew_goldstein used. Since AT&T supports that Tracfone SIM, authorities sent its next info request to the carrier. The phone company's toll records revealed that the SIM was once associated with an iPhone 6. What truly helped the case was the info authorities got from Apple after sending the tech titan a few warrants. The iCloud info Cupertino handed over contains the owner's name: John Rivello. It also had his verified email address and his home address in Maryland.

Authorities found a screenshot of Eichenwald's wife's response to the strobing image Rivello tweeted in his iCloud account. It also had a screenshot of the journalist's Wikipedia page that had been altered to show a date of death, as well as a screenshot of an article on the search for the perpetrator. Plus, authorities found a photo of the account's owner holding up his driver's license with his address and photo, which made finding him much easier.

All those clues from iCloud led feds straight to Rivello who was arrested on March 17th and charged with cyberstalking. We're guessing the court will dissect all the pieces of evidence the feds unearthed -- it'll be interesting to see if they'll hold up and how the court will punish "weaponized tweets."

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