UPDATED 11:06 EST / AUGUST 23 2022


Whistleblower delivers liver shot to Twitter with new accusations about lax security

Twitter Inc.’s former head of security Peiter Zatko has accused the company of having “extreme, egregious deficiencies” when it comes to spam and dealing with hackers.

Zatko, a well-known figure in the hacking community, was let go from the company earlier this year sometime after the new chief executive, Parag Agrawal, took the reins from Jack Dorsey. In the 1990s, Zatko was a member of the well-known hacking group Cult of the Dead Cow, after which he did stints at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Google LLC and Stripe Inc.

He joined Twitter after the embarrassing 2020 hack, which saw young cryptocurrency scammers take over the accounts of folks such as Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. It’s Zatko’s contention that such a thing could happen again because Twitter is not interested enough in security.

Zatko’s revelations were only revealed today in the media. In July, he issued a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. He alleges that he was fired because he had talked about the vulnerabilities at Twitter in terms of security, and for the most part, he was told to back down.

He has since said that Twitter acted negligently when it came to understanding just how many spam accounts infiltrated the website, something that will please Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk, since he accused Twitter of hiding the truth about spam accounts when he was trying to buy the company.

Zatko told the SEC that he “witnessed senior executive engaging in deceitful and/or misleading communications affecting Board members, users and shareholders” many times in 2021. He also said that Agrawal asked him to provide misleading documents.

He added the number of security incidents related to user accounts was “stunning” but that Twitter did not act on this. He said Twitter lied to Musk about the bots and that he soon “learned that deliberate ignorance was the norm” at Twitter.

“This would never be my first step, but I believe I am still fulfilling my obligation to Jack and to users of the platform,” Zatko told The Washington Post earlier today. “I want to finish the job Jack brought me in for, which is to improve the place.”

In a note published by CNN, Twitter responded, saying Zatko “was fired from his senior executive role at Twitter for poor performance and ineffective leadership.” The company added that the allegations are “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies” and “appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on Twitter, its customers, and its shareholders.”

Photo: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash

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