Twitter misled U.S. regulators on hackers, spam, whistleblower says


Aug 23 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) has misled federal regulators about its defenses against hackers and spam accounts, former security chief of social media company Peiter Zatko said in a whistleblower complaint.

In an 84-page complaint, Zatko, a famous hacker commonly known as “Mudge,” alleged that Twitter falsely claimed it had a solid security plan, according to documents passed on by congressional investigators. Shares of Twitter fell 7.3% to $39.86.

According to the document, Twitter prioritized user growth over spam reduction, with executives eligible for individual bonuses of as much as $10 million tied to increases in daily users, and nothing explicit for spam reduction.

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Twitter labeled the complaint a “false story”. The social media company is fighting Elon Musk in court after the world’s richest person tried to pull out of a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. Musk said it did not provide details on the prevalence of bot and spam accounts.

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) Chief Executive Musk had offered to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share, saying he believed it could be a global platform for free speech.

Twitter and Musk have sued each other, with Twitter asking a judge of the Delaware Court of Chancery to order Musk to close the deal. A trial is scheduled for October 17.

Zatko filed the complaint last month with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The complaint was also sent to congressional committees.

“We are reviewing the redacted claims that have been published, but what we have seen so far is a false story that is full of inconsistencies and inaccuracies,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal told employees in a memo.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Chuck Grassley, said the complaint raised serious national security and privacy concerns and should be investigated.

“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 have a recipe for disaster,” he said. .

The FTC declined to comment. A spokesman for the Senate Intelligence Committee said it had received the complaint and held a meeting to discuss the allegation.

Twitter’s real regulatory risk lies in whether the documented evidence shows “knowing or reckless deception” by investors or regulators, said Howard Fischer, a partner at Moses & Singer and a former SEC attorney.

‘GIVE A LITTLE whistle’

Musk could not be reached for comment, but responded on Twitter with memes and emoji of a robot. Musk’s legal team has sued Zatko, CNN reported after the whistleblower’s disclosure was made public.

American hackers have admired Zatko since the 1990s, when he was credited with inventing a password-cracking tool. He later used his hacking chops to become a much sought-after security consultant and, along with other rebellious techies of the time, moved up to top government and boardroom positions.

The whistleblower document says that after the Jan. 6 riots, the incoming Biden administration offered him “a first-day position as Chief Information Security Officer for the United States,” which he turned down.

Cybersecurity leaders expressed widespread support for Zatko, with many lamenting Twitter’s response to his revelations.

Robert Lee, founder of industrial cybersecurity firm Dragos, said it was “one of the very rare times based on who it is that I don’t even need to know a detail to form an opinion,” he said on Twitter. “If Mudge makes these kinds of claims, it deserves the investigation.”

In January, Twitter said Zatko was no longer the head of security, two years after he was appointed to the position.

On Tuesday, a Twitter spokesperson said Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance,” adding that his allegations were designed to draw attention and harm Twitter, its customers and its shareholders.

Zatko attorneys Debra Katz and Alexis Ronickher said in a statement that during his tenure at Twitter, he repeatedly raised concerns about inadequate information security systems to the company’s executive committee, CEO and board of directors. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment on that statement.

(This story corrects the closing price and removes the odd percentage symbol in paragraph two)

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Reporting by Chavi Mehta, Ankur Banerjee and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru, Peter Henderson in Oakland and Raphael Satter in Washington; Additional reporting by Rick Cowan in Washington; Written by Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Kenneth Li, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Sriraj Kalluvila and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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