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Fourth generation iPhone prototype's finder, keeper revealed

The individual who found the lost iPhone prototype and held it for weeks before delivering it to Gizmodo for a reported $5,000 has been identified as Brian Hogan, a 21 year old resident of Redwood City, California.

A posting by the Wired Threat Level blog named the individual as it continued to present a revised history of events that portrayed Hogan's failure to return the phone for weeks as a "mistake" and his sale of the device to Gizmodo as "sharing."

Hogan attorney Jeffrey Bornstein told Wired that Gizmodo has "emphasized" to his client that "there was nothing wrong in sharing the phone with the tech press," a restatement of events apparently intended to downplay the fact that the tech blog publicly paid Hogan for receipt of a device that clearly did not belong to him.

The blog posting stated Hogan was only able to access Facebook on the prototype phone before it was shut down. Gizmodo reported the phone owner's identity via that Facebook page, making it clear that Hogan had detailed knowledge of who the phone belonged to, despite Hogan's decision to hold onto it for weeks before selling it to Gizmodo along with the identity of the engineer who had lost it.

Additional middlemen complicate investigation

A subsequent report by CNET noted that Hogan "had help in finding a buyer for the phone." It identified "Sage Robert Wallower, a 27-year-old University of California at Berkeley student" as an associate of Hogan.

CNET said Wallower acted as a middleman, along with at least one other unnamed individual, who "contacted technology sites about what is believed to be Apple's next-generation iPhone." It also noted that Wallower "previously worked as a computer security officer at the publicly traded Securitas corporation and that he possesses 'top-secret clearance,'" according to his LinkedIn profile.

The report also noted discovery of an Amazon suggestion list created for Wallower by a friend which included "a book co-authored by ex-hacker Kevin Mitnick titled, 'The Art of Intrusion: The Real Stories Behind the Exploits of Hackers, Intruders and Deceivers.'"

That title is particularly ironic given that former black hat hacker Mitnick is an associate of Kevin Poulsen, aka Dark Dante, who spent the second half of the 1990s in federal prison for mail, wire and computer fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, and the second half of the 2000’s in his current role as the senior editor of Wired and its Threat Level blog.

Blog Levels Threats

Wired's latest blog posting sympathetically characterizes Hogan as working in a church-run community center and serving as a volunteer benefiting Chinese orphans as well as orphans in Kenya who need medical care. A previous Threat Level blog entry on the iPhone prototype story debuted the idea that "news accounts depicting the $5,000 payment as a 'sale' are incorrect," setting the stage for later identifying Hogan as a hero to orphans worldwide, who simply 'made a mistake involving sharing,' rather than being a thief who sold stolen merchandise for thousands of dollars instead of returning it to its known owner.

As the senior editor for Wired, Poulsen has previously presided over a series of articles written by the authors of the latest posting, Brian X. Chen and Kim Zetter, which ranged from assailing the iPhone as being "as insecure as Windows 95" to its being hated in Japan.

In those earlier reports, Zetter delivered an unflattering portrayal of the iPhone's security credentials based on faulty reasoning and questionable sources, while Chen based his report on the iPhone's supposed failure in Japan upon invented sources who later insisted they never made the comments Chen attributed to them.

Brian Hogan