Challenge

Subject:The Case of the Test Pilot 
Difficulty:●●○○○
Duration:12 minutes (estimated)
This 1972 photo from NASA shows a YF-12A interceptor (jet plane) with test pilot Donald L. Mallick. However, something was edited.

Click on the picture to view it with FotoForensics.


YF-12A


Using FotoForensics, can you identify:
  1. Where is the modification in the picture?
  2. Which program was used to perform the modification?
  3. Can you identify exactly what was modified? (Solving this question requires critical thinking. And searching for this picture online is cheating.)
Hint #1
Use Error Level Analysis.
Hint #2
Check the metadata for the application's name and version.
Hint #3
With this picture, it is relatively easy to identify "where" the edit occurred. But determining "what" was edited requires critical thinking. So here's a hint: Something was digitally removed. What is missing in this picture?


Answer #1
ELA identifies a large patch to the left of the test pilot that is inconsistent with the rest of the picture. That is where the edit occurred.
 Answer #2
The metadata says the picture was processed by Adobe Photoshop CS2 for Windows.
Answer #3
If you said "the ground" was altered, then you missed it.

The pilot's shadow was digitally removed. Here's the source NASA photo:

NASA ECN-2978


With ELA and metadata, determining "where" the modification was made and "how" it was modified can be relatively easy. However, determining "what" was altered and "why" are usually much more difficult problems. They are harder to answer because they require critical thinking and not just looking at test results.


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