October 6, 2022
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Twitter Whistleblower Says Company Prioritized Profits Over Security

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Twitter’s former head of safety instructed a Senate panel on Tuesday that the influential social media firm was greater than a decade behind trade safety requirements, elevating issues about how nicely the platform is defending the information of its 238 million every day customers.

“The corporate’s cybersecurity failures make it susceptible to exploitation, inflicting actual hurt to actual folks,” Peiter “Mudge” Zatko instructed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Zatko testified earlier than US lawmakers about safety and privateness issues he allegedly uncovered whereas working on the firm.

Zatko filed an 84-page whistleblower complaint in July to the US Securities and Trade Fee, the Division of Justice and the Federal Commerce Fee. Within the grievance, he alleges his former employer prioritized consumer progress over privateness and safety.

Zatko accuses Twitter executives of hiding dangerous information as an alternative of attempting to repair issues he delivered to their consideration. Twitter appeared to have a excessive price of safety incidents, some workers had disabled safety and software program updates on their units and employees had an excessive amount of entry to consumer knowledge, Zatko alleges within the grievance. Twitter pushed again towards the allegations and mentioned the whistleblower grievance has inconsistencies, inaccuracies and lacks vital context.

The grievance has sparked extra scrutiny from US lawmakers and regulators who’re attempting to rein within the energy of massive tech platforms. It additionally comes as Twitter is in a legal fight with billionaire Elon Musk who’s attempting to again out of shopping for the corporate for $44 billion. Zatko alleges that Twitter lied to Musk concerning the variety of bots on its platform and Musk’s legal professionals are utilizing the whistleblower grievance as a part of their case. 

Twitter fired Zatko in January, however his legal professionals say that he did not file the grievance to learn Musk or to hurt Twitter. 

US lawmakers are attempting to unravel the allegations made towards Twitter whereas additionally urging the Federal Commerce Fee to research the corporate. The whistleblower alleges that executives and the board of administrators violated federal legislation by making “false and deceptive” statements to customers and the FTC.

In a listening to that lasted greater than two hours, US lawmakers requested a wide selection of questions together with about potential threats to nationwide safety, Twitter’s plans to construct an Solely Followers competitor and what they may do to carry tech firms accountable. Zatko additionally supplied lawmakers with extra particulars about international affect from China and India. At one level throughout the listening to, Zatko mentioned that roughly every week earlier than he was fired he had discovered from the safety staff that Twitter had a Chinese language agent working for the nation’s Ministry of State Safety on its payroll.

He additionally added that he had a dialog with a Twitter govt about his issues about having a international agent throughout the firm. Zatko mentioned the chief instructed him, “Effectively, since we have already got one, what does it matter if we have now extra?”

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, began the listening to by outlining his issues concerning the trove of knowledge Twitter collects about its customers.

“When that knowledge is not safe, we change into susceptible to dangerous actors, rip-off artists, stalkers, even international brokers,” Durbin mentioned.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who’s the rating member of the committee, added that Twitter has a “goldmine of knowledge that could possibly be used towards America’s curiosity.” He additionally mentioned he was involved that the FTC “did not know or did not take robust sufficient motion” to make sure Twitter complied with an 11-year-old settlement with the FTC.

Twitter’s CEO Parag Agrawal, Grassley mentioned, refused to look as we speak due to ongoing litigation. 

“If these allegations are true, I do not see how Mr. Agrawal can keep his place at Twitter going ahead,” Grassley mentioned.

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