Ex-chief of Twitter security: Chinese government agent was on Twitter’s payroll

by WorldTribune Staff / 247 Real News September 13, 2022

Famed hacker Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, who was fired recently as Twitter’s chief of security, said in congressional testimony on Tuesday that a Chinese government espionage agent was on the payroll at the social media platform and that Twitter employees were concerned that the communist government in Beijing would be able to collect data on Twitter users.

Peiter ‘Mudge’ Zatko testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. / Video Image

Zatko told the Senate Judiciary Committee that, in the week before he was fired from Twitter, he learned the FBI told the company an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS, the country’s main espionage agency, was on the Twitter payroll.

Zatko also said he recalled a conversation with another Twitter executive about concerns that a foreign agent was inside the company. The executive responded “Well, since we already have one, what does it matter if we have more?”

Some 4,000 employees at Twitter have access to the personal information of those who use the social media platform and can track those users any place at any time, Zatko said.

“I’m here today because Twitter leadership is misleading the public, lawmakers, regulators, and even its own board of directors,” Zatko testified.

“What I discovered when I joined Twitter was that this enormously influential company was over a decade behind industry security standards. The company’s cyber security failures make it vulnerable to exploitation causing real harm to real people. And when an influential media platform can be compromised by teenagers, thieves, and spies and the company repeatedly creates security problems on their own this is a big deal for all of us,” said Zatko.

Zatko testified that Twitter executives focused on profits over security; the company can’t identify inappropriate access to the platform; and the company’s board took no action when alerted to security issues.

Zatko filed a whistleblower complaint against Twitter over the summer, alleging egregious security failings by the company.

In the complaint, Zatko said that more than half of Twitter’s 500,000 servers were running out-of-date software and more than a quarter of employee computers have disabled software updates that can provide important security patches. He said Twitter’s practice of granting broad access to the platform’s production environment was “unheard of in a company the age and importance of Twitter, where nearly all employees have access to systems or data they should not.”

A lawyer representing Zatko said the former Twitter employee has had no contact with Elon Musk, who in July said he was withdrawing his $44 billion bid to acquire the company.

Musk and Twitter will meet in court in October where Delaware Court of Chancery Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick will determine if Musk is still on the hook to acquire the company.

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