Hoax of the decade? Fake Times Square video iPhone hacker a strong contender

Filed Under: Apple, Law & order, Mobile, Vulnerability

According to a wildly-popular video on YouTube, you can take over any video screen, any time.

All you need to do is to plug BITcrash44's tiny transmitter into the headphone jack of your iPhone. This transmits a copy of whatever is playing on your iPhone's screen to an equally-tiny companion device, called a repeater.

(Why not watch a few Sophos videos, too? Check us out on the SophosLabs YouTube channel.)

According to BITcrash44, if you place the repeater close to any video screen, it will "take over" that screen, replacing whatever is currently showing with the video signal from your iPhone.

At one point, the hoaxer duct-tapes his tiny repeater to a helium balloon and floats it upwards to "take over" a massive display screen located several metres above ground level.

It's all a load of garbage, of course. There's no "transmitter", and no "repeater". The YouTube video is just smoke and mirrors - a bunch of careful edits and effects.

This kind of hoax is mostly harmless, and is good fun to watch, because the video effects are cleverly and amusingly done. But when you stop to think about it, it's obviously a hoax, not least because the headphone jack of an iPhone doesn't provide video output at all.

(You should also question the amazing transmission energy of the "repeater", which has no visible source of power, yet seems able to blast out enough electromagnetic radiation to "own" an apparently inexhaustible range of video displays, whether wireless or not.)

So don't feel bad if you enjoyed and forwarded this hoax. You probably don't even need to feel bad if you fell for it - many news sites seem to have done so. But you might want to view it again with a more cynical hat on, so you don't fall for this sort of twaddle next time.

Text messageSadly, not all internet hoaxes are amusingly innocent.

Yesterday's false radiation warning disseminated by SMS in the Philippines is a good example.

Don't help fear-mongering hoaxes to get a grip.

With significant real risks ahead at Japan's overheating nuclear reactors, the fake warnings in the Philippines caused needless fear and, even worse, desensitised people to any important official warnings which might appear in the future.

Rash actions on-line don't benefit anyone. Don't sign up for a brand-new social networking service before the operators have told you what it's for; don't panic if you receive an unsolicited support call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft; and don't blindly "Like" sites on Facebook before you've even seen them yourself.

Remember the carpenter's motto: "measure twice, cut once."

And if you are at all unsure, don't input your details, don't stay on the phone, and don't click just to see what happens.

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6 Responses to Hoax of the decade? Fake Times Square video iPhone hacker a strong contender

  1. Kevin · 1128 days ago

    It can be possible if every device has built in apple TV :)

    And most amazing part of the video is that no one was paying attention to screen on which he was generating his own media :D

  2. Very cool video. Lots of good editing for sure. I hope most people who believed this realized it was fake after the balloon part. Haha

  3. Paul, I don't know if you saw this comment on YouTube, but what do you make of it? It is really interesting: "The device maybe fake but the video isn't....0:35 is the giveaway. Look 20m down the street behind the screen; you can see the video transitioning to the one on the iphone. The video actually does appear on the screen... that's because someone has paid to put it on the loop. The interesting question is, who paid for it and why."

    Do you think this was the editor's choice to edit that in down the street? Just to play with our minds some more? Or possibly this was all set up?

    • Paul Ducklin · 1127 days ago

      If you were going to pay for someone to put your video on the loop of any of the screens seen in the clip, wouldn't you choose one of the screens you actually pretended to "hack" in order to achieve even greater realism?

      (If you want conspiracy theory, then perhaps you should assume they did pay to have their video screened at a specific time on the first screen, but the operator screwed up and put it on the wrong device, 20m down the street .)

      As for the assertion that "the video really does appear on the screen" - hmmm. All the other occasions on which it "really appears on the screen" it's been faked. Why would that be any different - assuming it's the same video, of course. That isn't certain, at least to my eyes.

      And "what do I make of it"? Perhaps the comment you mention (for which there is a second YT video giving detail :-) is a metahoax, or even part of the original hoax. All good hoaxes have faked-up secondary objective evidence, don't they :-)

  4. So this turned out to be a viral video advertising campaign for the movie "Limitless". http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20044373-1.ht...

    Good stuff.

  5. Adam Outler · 1118 days ago

    The iPhone has an av jack. It's a 4 pole connection. Not debating the fact that this is fake, but that an iPhone does have a video connection in the 4-pole AV Jack.

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog