Did a Hacker Take Over the Screens in Times Square With an iPhone? Probably Not!


In the above YouTube video, the user BITcrash44 claims to hack the video screens in Times Square using just an iPhone, a weather balloon, a transmitter, and something called a “video repeater.” But like anything amazing that happens on the Internet, a lot of people doubt it’s real. It might just be an advertisement for video effects!

Watching the clip, it’s fairly convincing, as the quality of the effects, if that’s what they are, is impressive. But using some common sense, we’d like to imagine that taking over some of the largest, most prominent video screens in the world would require a little bit more effort., one site that posted the YouTube video, is currently down, but when one Twitter user saw the clip, he automatically doubted it, based largely on the surrounding website (see update below). “As cool as that looks, it’s a hoax,” he wrote. “The focus on video effects on the rest of the site is pretty sufficient proof.”

(UPDATE: Here’s the video posted at Momentum Blog, the aforementioned effects blog, by Alexandros Maragos, whose About Me section notes an emphasis on “HDSLR Cinematography, Cinematic Documentary, Modern Filmmaking & Contemporary Photography.” We’ve reached out to Maragos looking for some more info.

YouTube commenters voiced distrust, too, based partly on the fact that the YouTube account that uploaded the video never existed before this clip, with one user noting that when that happens, “Alarm bells instantly start sounding.”

The same commenter noticed that BITcrash44, the iPhone Times Square hacker, favorited a video with the following description:

“HeadBlade hired viral marketing agency Thinkmodo to create an engaging and entertaining video to get people talking about head shaving. Thinkmodo created “The Shaving Helmet” which quickly became a global viral sensation and sparked conversations about head shaving around the world.”

Others note the technology limitations of the equipment used, casting doubt on the authenticity of the prank, while some are willfully ignorant. “Holly $hiiiiiit!” writes one commenter.

As fun as it can be to get excited about a YouTube video, we’re going to side with the skeptics: This one stinks of bullshit.

UPDATE 2: Maragos, the video equipment blogger mentioned above, tells us that he too initially doubted the veracity of the stunt, but now thinks “the motion of the camera is too choppy to quick-edit and mask the video.” That said, “this kind of editing is very doable, but it also needs a lot of time to do it so perfectly with this kind of footage. One of the things that makes me believe that the video is real are the reflections appearing on screen at 0:56 right and left of his transmission.”

But more YouTube commenters are chiming in with dissenting opinions: “The image in the display moves slightly at 0:37-0:39. Good attempt if this was a one time view on TV, but unfortunately it’s on YouTube where anything that doesn’t look perfect can be analyzed over and over again.”

We’ve sent a message to the YouTube uploader BITcrash44 and will update if we hear back.