Whistle Blower Exposes Twitter Lapses Before US Senate Judiciary Committee

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, who earlier served as the security chief at Twitter, testified before the U.S Congress that the social media platform has many security lapses and can be easily attacked by “teenagers, thieves and spies”, thus risking the online security of many Twitter users. Zatko appeared before a Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to present his side of the story.

While starting his sworn testimony, Zatko said, “I am here today because Twitter leadership is misleading the public, lawmakers, regulators and even its own board of directors.”

“They don’t know what data they have, where it lives and where it came from and so, unsurprisingly, they can’t protect it. It doesn’t matter who has keys if there are no locks,” he added.

Zatko was the head of security at Twitter until he was laid off earlier in 2022. He sent a whistle blower complaint in July to the Congress, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Zatko made many allegations against the social media company, main among which is that Twitter went against the terms of a 2011 FTC settlement by making false claims that it had a fool proof security system in place.

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who was heading the Judiciary Committee, said that Zatko has detailed flaws, which “may pose a direct threat to Twitter’s hundreds of millions of users as well as to American democracy.”

According to Zatko, a lot of the personal information submitted by Twitter users has been leaked and Twitter did not even consider the “basic systematic failures”, put forward by Twitter users.

Zatko said, “The FTC has been “a little over its head”, and far behind European counterparts, in policing the sort of privacy violations that have occurred at Twitter.”

Twitter had rubbished most of Zatko’s claims saying that they are wild claims and have no documentary back-up. The company has described Zatko’s claims as “a false narrative … riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies”.

One of the most notable allegations made by Zatko was that Twitter knowingly let the Indian Government keep its agents on company payroll, by which they had easy access to confidential information. “Twitter’s lack of ability to log how employees accessed user accounts made it hard for the company to detect when employees were abusing their access,” Zatko said.

The whistle blower also alleged falsehood in how Twitter handled the matter of automated “spam bots,” or fake accounts. This issue is one of the main bone of contention in the case between Elon Musk and Twitter over his decision to abandon his $44 billion takeover deal.

Senator Charles Grassley, the committee’s ranking Republican, said that Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal will not testify at the hearing because of the ongoing case.
Other than the above-mentioned allegations, Zatko has also accused Agrawal and many other senior officials of many crimes like making “false and misleading statements to users and the FTC about the Twitter platform’s security, privacy and integrity.”

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