Whistleblower warns of Twitter security issues

August 24, 2022
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I felt ethically bound. This is not a light step to take.

Twitter’s former head of security, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, who recently filed an 84-page whistleblower report about widespread security issues. Zatko had been on Twitter’s staff for a little over a year before being fired in January.

Why It Matters: The document was submitted to multiple government agencies and Congress for potential "extensive legal violations" on the part of Twitter. The report states that Zatko "uncovered extreme, egregious deficiencies by Twitter" including "user privacy, digital and physical security, and platform integrity/content moderation."

  • Some of the allegations: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a settlement in 2011 with Twitter on the premise that Twitter would maintain a security plan protecting users' data; the report accuses Twitter of not following through. Zatko alleges that Twitter handles about one security incident per week that is serious enough to report to government agencies, but instead withholds the information. The report also claims that Twitter has allowed an unnecessary number of employees to access personal user data.
  • This isn't the first time high profile tech names have questioned Twitter's security. Elon Musk, who offered to buy the company earlier this year, is currently trying to get out of the contract. Why? Musk, the world's richest main, claims that Twitter "drastically underestimated the number of bots of its platform" (Washington Post). A trial is set for October.
  • Twitter has denied the allegations and said the report is "riddled with inaccuracies," according to Twitter spokeswoman Rebecca Hahn.
  • Multiple government agencies and congress are expected to conduct further investigations. “Take a tech platform that collects massive amounts of user data, combine it with what appears to be an incredibly weak security infrastructure and infuse it with foreign state actors with an agenda, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster,” said Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

5 takeaways from Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko (Associated Press)

For a deeper dive: Former security chief claims Twitter buried ‘egregious deficiencies’ (Washington Post, who originally obtained the full report & spoke with Peiter Zatko)

by Jenna Lee,