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Whistleblower blasts ‘lack of competency’ of Twitter execs at Senate hearing

·2-min read
Former Twitter exec Peiter Zatko  (AFP via Getty Images)
Former Twitter exec Peiter Zatko (AFP via Getty Images)

A Twitter whistleblower has launched a blistering attack on Twitter execs at a US Senate hearing, lambasting their ‘lack of competency’ as he detailed what he believes are serious safety issues on the social media platform.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, who was Twitter’s head of security until he was fired earlier in the year, alleged the firm doesn’t delete users’ data after they deactivate their accounts, and has cybersecurity policies that expose it to hacking and disinformation by state aggressors. Twitter has denied this.

Zatko told the US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: “What I discovered when I joined Twitter was that this enormously influential company was over a decade behind industry security standards.

“When I…repeatedly sounded the alarm of the real risks associated with [these problems] the executive team instead chose to mislead its board, shareholders, lawmakers and the public, instead of addressing them.

“Twitter leadership ignored its engineers because key parts of leadership lacked the competency to understand the scope of the problem. They don’t know what data they have, where it lives or where it came from, and so unsurprisingly, they can’t protect it. It doesn’t matter who has keys if you don’t have any locks on the doors.”

The devastating remarks come ahead of a legal tussle between Twitter and Tesla boss Elon Musk as the social media giant hopes to force through the billionaire’s abandoned $44 billion takeover deal.

Musk is understood to have summed Zatko to appear as part of the trial, in which Twitter are hoping to force though Musk’s abandoned takeover. The Tesla boss walked away from the deal after accusing the company of failing to provide accurate information about the number of fake and ‘bot’ accounts on the platform. Twitter has reaffirmed its view that the number of these accounts represents less than 5% of overall users.

Last week, Musk’s lawyers asked a Delaware court to delay the trial so they can investigate a whistleblower’s claims over its security policy. Twitter’s lawyers hit back at the request, saying: “Mr. Musk is blaming Twitter for his failing to do customary due diligence.”

Senator Chuck Grassley said at the hearing: “The whistleblower disclosures Paint a very disturbing picture of a company that’s solely focused on profit at any expense, including the safety and security of its users.”

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.