Twitter whistleblower Pieter Zatko has raised concerning questions about the social media platform’s security and integrity.
On Tuesday, a letter of complaint from Twitter’s former head of security was made public. The letter was an account of his 14-month effort to improve security, reliability, and trustworthiness on the platform, effort he claims was not supported by his employer. Twitter has called his account “a false narrative” of the events of his employment.
The key notes of his complaint:
- Twitter’s security and privacy systems were all vulnerable, despite a 2011 agreement between Twitter and the FTC to use stronger data protection measures. Zatko alleges that those vulnerabilities grew worse, not better.
- Twitter as a data system is at risk of collapse under any data-center failure or attack. Internal estimates even included the possibility of permanent, irreparable failure.
- Twitter Inc. misled interested parties about the numbers of fake “spam” accounts in the system, including keeping themselves deliberately ignorant to actual statistics. According to Zatko, executives were concerned that keeping or releasing accurate counts could harm Twitter’s value to investors.
- There is little to no internal protection for the platform’s core systems if a hypothetical employee chose to sabotage or steal data.
- Twitter is actively being used by foreign powers for purposes counter to the aim of the platform. Zatko alleges that the Indian government forced Twitter offices there to hire specific individuals believed to be spies. He also accused the platform of taking money from “Chinese entities” to allow them to access the data of Twitter users in China, for unspecified purposes.
The Twitter whistleblower is a respected cybersecurity expert who first gained prominence in the 1990s. He went on to hold senior positions at Google and at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Agency. He was fired earlier this year, allegedly for “ineffective leadership and poor performance.” Zatko says he was fired to discredit his report.
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