On Friday, the FBI arrested a man who allegedly tweeted a seizure-inducing strobe light at Vanity Fair contributing editor Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy.
John Rayne Rivello of Salisbury, Maryland, was arrested in Maryland on a federal criminal complaint charging him of cyberstalking, according to an FBI press release.
Eichenwald tweeted about the event after it occurred, and filed a complaint. According to the complaint, the tweet contained an animated strobe light image, embedded with the statement, "You deserve a seizure for your post." Upon viewing the flashing strobe image, Eichenwald immediately suffered a seizure, the press release stated.
A search warrant found that Rivello's Twitter account contained direct messages from Rivello's account to other Twitter users about the victim, including statements such as: "I hope this sends him into a seizure," "Spammed this at [victim] let's see if he dies," and "I know he has epilepsy."
SEE: Social media policy [download] (Tech Pro Research)
The FBI also found that Rivello's iCloud account contained a screenshot of Eichenwald's Wikipedia page, which had been altered to show a fake obituary with the date of death listed as December 16, 2016—the day after he allegedly sent the strobe. The iCloud account also contained screenshots from epilepsy.com, with a list of commonly reported epilepsy seizure triggers, and a story from DallasObserver.com that detailed the victim's report to the Dallas Police Department and his attempt to identify the Twitter user.
The attack on Eichenwald came soon after a fight between Vanity Fair and President Donald Trump, after the magazine published a negative review of Trump Grill.
Though Eichenwald did not write that story, he covered Trump during the election season. And this was not the first time Eichenwald said he was attacked: In a Newsweek story published in October 2016, he described another attempt by a Trump supporter to send him a seizure-inducing video.
These attacks highlight the ability for tech to cause harm, which businesses should be aware of and warn employees against. It also demonstrates how professionals must take extra security measures when it comes to social media platforms and public facing accounts.
The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers
1. On Friday, the FBI arrested a man for allegedly tweeting a video of a strobe light at Vanity Fair contributing editor Kurt Eichenwald, who has epilepsy, which caused Eichenwald to have a seizure.
2. The FBI found evidence on the arrested man's phone, including messages to other Twitter users about the victim and his planned attack.
3. The occurrence highlights how tech can be used as a weapon, and the importance for businesses to have social media and privacy policies in place.
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- Phishing, sophisticated attacks most troubling to IT security pros (ZDNet)
- Why top ISPs don't think your web history or app usage is 'sensitive information' (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.