In his interview, Peiter Zatko, once among the world's best hackers known as "Mudge" and who was personally hired by Twitter founder and then-CEO Jack Dorsey, noted that the current operations team has not been upfront with billionaire Elon Musk regarding the real number of fake and bot accounts on the platform.
What's more, the Silicon Valley figure who was fired in January by Twitter also said that security on the platform is so bad it has become a huge risk to U.S. national security.
“Mr. Zatko was fired from his senior executive role at Twitter for poor performance and ineffective leadership over six months ago. While we haven’t had access to the specific allegations being referenced, what we’ve seen so far is a narrative about our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies, and lacks important context," a Twitter spokesperson told CNN in response to Zatko's allegations.
Musk has been saying for months that Twitter officials were lying to him about the real number of fake bot and spam accounts on the platform which led to his backing out of a $44 billion offer to purchase the company earlier this year. In order to force him to complete the deal, Twitter filed a lawsuit against Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Starlink, leading him to countersue in order to force Twitter to reveal the real bot numbers.
“Zatko further alleges that Twitter’s leadership has misled its own board and government regulators about its security vulnerabilities, including some that could allegedly open the door to foreign spying or manipulation, hacking and disinformation campaigns,” CNN reported.
#BREAK A former Twitter executive, its head of security, has turned whistleblower.
He alleges grave security problems at the company that he says are a risk to national security and democracy.
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) August 23, 2022
“The whistleblower also alleges Twitter does not reliably delete users’ data after they cancel their accounts, in some cases because the company has lost track of the information, and that it has misled regulators about whether it deletes the data as it is required to do,” the report continued. “The whistleblower also says Twitter executives don’t have the resources to fully understand the true number of bots on the platform, and were not motivated to. Bots have recently become central to Elon Musk’s attempts to back out of a $44 billion deal to buy the company (although Twitter denies Musk’s claims).”
Insider noted as well:
In his complaint, addressed to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and Department of Justice, dated July, Zatko broadly paints Twitter’s security practices as inadequate and dangerous.
In a section entitled “Lying about Bots to Elon Musk,” Zatko, a famous hacker known as “Mudge,” accuses Twitter of misrepresenting how robustly it measures and combats bots and spam accounts.
The revelations have led to responses from some federal lawmakers as well.
“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,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said.
“The claims I’ve received from a Twitter whistleblower raise serious national security concerns as well as privacy issues, and they must be investigated further," he added.
In his quest to get Twitter to reveal all it knows regarding the bot accounts, Musk won a legal victory earlier this month in a Delaware court, where the lawsuit is being heard.
Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick of the Delaware Court of Chancery ordered Twitter to gather documents from former General Manager of Consumer Product Kayvon Beykpour, look them over, and then turn the documents over to Musk's legal team, as per Reuters.