Twitter: Whistleblower Peiter Zatko warns of security deficiencies at Senate hearing

“Ticking bomb” Whistleblower warns of security deficiencies on Twitter

A former Twitter manager has made serious allegations before the US Senate: His ex-employer is giving up not about IT security and endangers democracy. Could the appearance play into Elon Musk’s cards?


Former Twitter manager Peiter Zatko : The platform poses a “real risk” to national security


Lenin Nolly / dpa

Twitter’s former head of security Peiter Zatko has again criticized serious gaps in the protection of user data of the online service. The manager, who was fired in January and filed a whistleblowing complaint against the company in July, slammed Twitter leadership at a Senate hearing in Washington on Tuesday. The shortcomings of the Internet platform were so bad during his time there that they even posed a risk to national security, Zatko explained.

The IT expert who is also under known by his pseudonym “Mudge” from earlier hacker days, described the situation on Twitter as a “ticking bomb at security vulnerabilities”. Combined with management’s refusal to acknowledge the problems to regulators, users and investors, Twitter has become a “real risk” to millions of Americans, the democratic process and national security, Zatko said in a statement.

Alleged Chinese agent on Twitter payroll

Zatko also said at the hearing : In the week before he was fired from Twitter, he learned that an agent from China’s Ministry of State Security was on Twitter’s payroll.

It was not immediately clear whether the suspected Chinese agent was still working at the company. According to the Reuters news agency, Twitter did not initially respond to a request for comment.

»More than a decade behind industry standards«

Twitter’s IT security was checked when he 2020 “more than a decade behind industry standards,” said Zatko. His efforts to rectify the grievances were in vain. The group management had too little idea about handling user data and put profit instead of security in the foreground. Twitter has always vigorously denied the allegations and accused Zatko of wanting to harm his former employer. Zatko denied acting out of resentment. Twitter justified his dismissal with poor performance.

The statements are also relevant with regard to the legal dispute between Twitter and Elon Musk over the originally planned 46 Billions of dollars takeover of the group. The Tesla boss considers the purchase agreement to be invalid due to alleged misrepresentations and breaches of contract by the company. Musk has since expanded his arguments to include Zatko’s criticism of the alleged lack of data security. In October, it will be clarified in court whether Musk can get out of the takeover agreement.

As expected, the majority of Twitter shareholders meanwhile voted in favor of Musk’s takeover bid. The company announced this on Tuesday. A day before the deadline, insiders said there were enough investors in favor of the sale to Musk.

Annotation Editors: An earlier version of this report explained that Peiter Zatko’s appearance could have benefited Tesla boss Elon Musk in his takeover dispute with Twitter. We have changed the text passage, a detailed analysis of the case can be found here. 42337474

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