Former Twitter Executive Alleges Reckless and Negligent Cybersecurity Policies That Cause National Security Risk With Platform Filled With Bots and Foreign Agents

Twitter has major security problems that pose a threat to its own users’ personal information, to company shareholders, to national security, and to democracy, according to an explosive whistleblower disclosure obtained exclusively by CNN and The Washington Post.

The disclosure, sent last month to Congress and federal agencies, paints a picture of a chaotic and reckless environment at a mismanaged company that allows too many of its staff access to the platform’s central controls and most sensitive information without adequate oversight. It also alleges that some of the company’s senior-most executives have been trying to cover up Twitter’s serious vulnerabilities, and that one or more current employees may be working for a foreign intelligence service.

The whistleblower, who has agreed to be publicly identified, is Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, who was previously the company’s head of security, reporting directly to the CEO. 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. 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 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).

Zatko was fired by Twitter (TWTR) in January for what the company claims was poor performance. According to Zatko, his public whistleblowing comes after he attempted to flag the security lapses to Twitter’s board and to help Twitter fix years of technical shortcomings and alleged non-compliance with an earlier privacy agreement with the Federal Trade Commission. Zatko is being represented by Whistleblower Aid, the same group that represented Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen.

John Tye, founder of Whistleblower Aid and Zatko’s lawyer, told CNN that Zatko has not been in contact with Musk, and said Zatko began the whistleblower process before there was any indication of Musk’s involvement with Twitter.

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Source: CNN