The Daily learns tweet originated from app that pol used the night pic was posted
By Daniel Libit Sunday, June 5, 2011
As the world has attempted to make sense of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s claim that his Twitter account was hacked, a key clue has been missing: exactly how the notorious groin pic was posted online.
But according to data provided exclusively to The Daily from TweetCongress.org, a nonprofit website that captures each member of Congress’s Twitter feeds in real time, the shot seen round the world was transmitted using TweetDeck — a popular Adobe desktop application that links up with social networking sites. A review of Weiner’s Twitter stream from May 27, the day of the crotch pic, shows that Weiner had been posting only from TweetDeck — one of many ways to post messages to Twitter — that entire night.
Chet Wisniewski, a senior security adviser at security software company SophosLabs, said the TweetDeck stamp “does make it more plausible that it did come from him.”
Weiner used TweetDeck frequently, but he often also posted from the Web directly or from his BlackBerry. A widely circulated explanation for how Weiner’s Twitter account could have been hacked by email would also seem to be incompatible with the fact that the message in question originated on TweetDeck. If email had been used, the message probably would have originated via the photosharing site Yfrog, where the infamous picture was posted.
However, this information doesn’t rule out the possibility that the congressman’s Twitter account was infiltrated — as Weiner has publicly suggested. But experts say it adds another hurdle for an alibi that has come under increasing fire.
“The complexity goes up,” said Chris McCroskey, the Texas software developer who founded TweetCongress.org. The site, which has advocated the increased participation from congressmen on Twitter, aggregates and archives all the feeds of the 112th Congress from Twitter’s application programming interface. It is the only known database to do this other than the Library of Congress, which does not publicly share its data.
Robert Stribley, a senior information architect at Razorfish, a social media strategy agency, reasoned that if Weiner used the TweetDeck app, “it would probably make it less likely his account was hacked.”
When reached by The Daily, TweetDeck’s community manager, Richard Barley, declined to comment.
Experts caution that there are several scenarios in which the congressman’s Twitter account could have been compromised. Wisniewski cautioned that a savvy hacker may have intentionally noted Weiner’s posting platform the night of the offending tweet, and intentionally matched it.
“If I had his password, I could add his account into my TweetDeck and start sending tweets, and it would all say ‘TweetDeck,’” Wisniewski explained.
On the other hand, Matthew Green, chief technology officer at Independent Security Evaluators, said that if the offensive tweet had been transmitted through something other than TweetDeck that night, it might have gone a long way to exonerate Weiner.
“You have to keep in mind that if the person’s goal was really to frame this guy and really embarrass him … they know all the previous posts,” Green said. “They’re going out of their way to make sure it looks like it came from him.”
TweetDeck is not hacker-proof, said Jason Falls, and there still is the possibility that someone with authorized access to his Twitter account intentionally or inadvertently logged onto Weiner’s account and sent the picture.
In a case that has grabbed headlines recently, a woman who worked for the Red Cross accidentally tweeted about getting drunk on the organization’s Twitter account, thinking that she had posted it on her personal one.
As for Weiner, the TweetDeck stamp won’t solve the case itself. But McCroskey knows what can.
“Here’s the thing that solves it all,” said McCroskey, “for him to call for a criminal investigation. All they have to do is look at his TweetDeck and see if it came from there, see what IP address [it had]. The local police department or Capitol Police could probably figure this out in 15 minutes.”
— With Ashley Kindergan and Karen Keller