Former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko says the company's vulnerabilities risk national security and the privacy of the citizenry, according to his whistleblower complaint reported by CNN and The Washington Post.
In the complaint, Zatko alleges that Twitter made false claims about the security of its platform, misleading the company's own board and government about the concerns.
"Twitter is grossly negligent in several areas of information security," Zatko writes. "If these problems are not corrected, regulators, media and users of the platform will be shocked when they inevitably learn about Twitter's severe lack of security basics."
Several key concerns laid out by Zatko include Twitter operating servers with outdated software. Among other concerns, Zatko alleges that the company's employees also had internal access to users' accounts, which in the past had led to the commandeering of several high-profile user accounts, including Elon Musk and Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
"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," said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. "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."
But recently, a Twitter spokesperson said that Zatko was fired months ago for "ineffective leadership and poor performance," and that security and privacy remain top priorities for the company.
"What we've seen so far," the spokesperson says, "is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context. Mr. Zatko's allegations and opportunistic timing appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on Twitter, its customers and its shareholders."
But according to John Tye, founder of Whistleblower Aid, the group representing Zatko, Zatko began the whistleblower process before Elon Musk tried to buy Twitter.
Still, Zatko's information may be useful in Musk's purchasing of Twitter.
Alex Spiro, an attorney for Musk, says, "we have already issued a subpoena for Mr. Zatko, and we found his exit and that of other key employees curious in light of what we have been finding."
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