The road to the lawsuit between Twitter and Elon Musk took a turn on Tuesday. The company’s former security chief, who was fired in January, went public with a series of complaints he made to the US Congress and the country’s stock market regulator about numerous irregularities on the platform. These range from security flaws in moderating bots and fake profiles like the ones Musk exposed to the possible presence of foreign spies infiltrating Twitter staff.
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Complaints sent in July describe a chaotic environment in departments that need to control platform toxicity, with too many workers having access to key tools and sensitive user information unchecked by the platform. They also assure that several senior Twitter executives are aware of the situation and have tried to hide it from the authorities.
Twitter’s former security chief revealed he was the author of these alerts in a separate information from The Washington Post and the CNN, who published the documents and detailed their contents. It’s Peiter Zatko, a hacker with a career spanning more than 30 years in the cybersecurity industry who worked for the US government before taking over security for Twitter. His wife is a senior NSA official, the country’s security agency.
The social network ensures that everything Zatko says is false. In addition, he alerts to the moment when his former head of security decided to bring his grievances about the situation of his former company to light. “Mr. Zatko was terminated from his senior position at Twitter in January 2022 for his ineffective leadership and poor performance,” a spokeswoman said in a statement sent to elDiario.es.
“What we have seen so far is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks context,” the same sources continue: “The accusations of Mr. Zatko and the right time to wear them. They just seem designed to attract attention and harm Twitter, its customers and its shareholders. Security and privacy have long been corporate priorities at Twitter and will continue to be.”
Zatko’s decision – known as “Mudge”, his former hacker alias, as he discovered numerous security vulnerabilities – comes at a key time for Elon Musk. This ensures that twitter lies in their official communications about the presence of bots on the platform and that their method of detection is negligent. This is the reason why he claimed to cancel the signed agreement to buy the social network for 44,000 million dollars, although most analysts agree that he did not provide any proof of it to convince the judge who will take the case.
With the revelations from Twitter’s former security chief, the scenario for Musk changes dramatically. Zatko denounces that Twitter has “extreme and appalling shortcomings” both in terms of protecting user information from cyberattacks and the integrity of the platform, the biggest problem of which is fake accounts.
Zatko was signed by the founder and former CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorseyin 2020. He was dismissed by his successor, Parag Agrawal. The differences with the latter seem to motivate some of the hacker’s most serious complaints. “Agrawal’s tweets and previous Twitter blog posts misleadingly imply that Twitter uses proactive and sophisticated systems to measure and block spam bots,” he alleges. “The reality: It’s mostly simple, outdated, unsupervised scripts, and overworked, inefficient, understaffed, and reactive human teams.”
Twitter’s lack of control has led Zatko to warn that there may even be intelligence agents from foreign countries with access to the social network’s security systems.
These complaints were very well received by Musk and his legal team. Alex Spiro, Musk’s attorney, told CNN: ‘We have already issued a subpoena for Mr. Zatko, and we found his departure and those of other key employees curious in light of what we have. found.”
Zatko receives support from Whistleblower Aid, an organization created to represent leakers of such information and which has also defended Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. John Tye, founder of Whistleblower Aid and attorney for Zatko, told CNN the hacker had not been in contact with Musk. It also ensures that Zatko started the complaint process before there was any indication that the billionaire had an interest in buying Twitter.