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Sunday, January 23, 2011

New developments on FOP hoax investigation

Posted By on Sun, Jan 23, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Our diligent reporter Chris Young has the latest on the police investigation of the FOP press release hoax.

On Wednesday, police executed a search warrant on video-rental store Dreaming Ant, seizing a hard drive and wireless router the store shares with the Crazy Mocha coffee shop. Young has acquired the affidavit -- a sworn statement made by police detective James Glick -- needed to secure the warrant. And according to that statement, police were led to the Bloomfield business after receiving their own copy of the e-mailed press release, forwarded to them by WTAE reporter Ashlie Hardway.

That faked press release "states [that] the FOP has changed their stance on the support of the officers," Glick's affidavit says. "The letter contained various names and referred to specific events that occurred involving FOP members." But it "misrepresented the position and or actions of the organization."

Based on this catalogue of horrors, police began to investigate the origins of the e-mail.

As the Post-Gazette's Sadie Gurman also notes today, the police traced it back to an IP address belonging to a wireless network operated by Dreaming Ant and Crazy Mocha. 

In theory, anyone could have logged into that network -- even if they hadn't been inside, drinking a latte at the time. But what police are looking for, apparently, is records of the "MAC address" used by the computer at the time the e-mail was sent. 

For those of you who ordinarily read the print edition of newspapers, "MAC address" refers to the media access control address, which identifies the network card on a computer logged into a network. Apparently, the police are hoping that this number will fingerprint the machine, in hopes of chasing down its owner.

It remains to be seen whether this internet sleuthing will work. I'm no internet ninja -- I mean, I write for a print newspaper -- but even I can find an online how-to guide for changing your MAC address. Presumably, somebody willing to create an entire fake press release -- complete with a trumped-up Latin slogan and a profane acrostic -- could spend a few minutes setting up a fake MAC address as well. 

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