East Bay high school senior scoops CNN on its own political poll by 'URL sleuthing'

ByMelissa Pixcar KGO logo
Friday, January 31, 2020
Dublin teen scoops CNN on its own political poll by 'URL sleuthing'
Dublin High School Senior, Arjav Rawl, leaks CNN's Iowa poll results on twitter

DUBLIN, Calif. (KGO) -- Arjav Rawal is not your average High School Senior. He is the Vice Chair for The California High School Democrats, interned for Representative Swalwell's Congressional campaign and has recently gained recognition for his sleuthing skills.

Rawal was able to decipher CNN's URL for the long-awaited results for the Democratic Iowa poll twenty minutes before their official release.

"I decided CNN would be a tougher nut to crack but let's try anyway," said Rawal. "It turns out, no, it wasn't. I found the PDF file and said let's tweet that out."

Rawal first tweeted the scoop in September and started catching peoples' attention.

"The very first time I did it, people didn't believe me," said Rawal. "Then the poll came out and then people thought, ok, this guy is on to something."

While Rawal's action seems a bit like computer hacking, it's actually not. The practice known as URL sleuthing is not really a crime.

"URL sleuthing is just really a form of guessing what a link is going to look like before a company is ready for it to become public, "said CNET Reporter Laura Hautala. "I do know that a lot of people have not got in trouble for it but it does happen."

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Rawal hoped CNN would take notice that a high school teen was releasing their poll results and would change their URL naming conventions.

"January came around after the second time. I went ahead and found it again and I tweeted it again," said Rawal. "When I first cracked the sequence the first thing I thought to myself was, man these people are really bad at what they do and I immediately went, I got to tweet this."

In earlier interviews, Rawal has expressed his unfavorable opinion for CNN but is willing to give them tips on how to secure their site.

"This is not meant to be a jab at CNN," said Rawal. "It's meant to say that this is a big vulnerability and here is how we fix it."

"This is important stuff, if its not a poll then what is it going to be? You can't just leave any PDF sitting out in the open like that. If it's not going to be me that finds these polls, then I guarantee you that it is going to be a Russian Operative who sees the poll numbers early and times their bots to blow up on social media, at the proper time."

After Rawal's latest poll unveiling, he has caught the attention from Elizabeth Warren's campaign team and the New York Times.

"It has been unusual to be recognized from something of this sort. Really, all it boils down to is some high school student found a PDF file," said Rawal.