Twitter Whistleblower Says There Was Spy on Payroll

As shareholders approve Musk's April offer
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2022 2:44 PM CDT
Twitter Whistleblower Says There Was Spy on Payroll
Twitter whistleblower Peter Zatko testifies to a Senate Judiciary hearing examining data security at risk, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Twitter whistleblower Peter Zatko, the company's former security chief, told lawmakers Tuesday that the platform is extremely vulnerable to being exploited by foreign agents—and said he was told while working at Twitter that there was at least one Chinese spy on the company payroll. Zatko, a famous hacker known as Mudge, accused Twitter of covering up "egregious deficiencies" in a complaint filed in July, months after he was fired. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that the execs chose to mislead "the public, lawmakers, regulators, and even its own board of directors" about security flaws instead of fixing them, the New York Times reports.

"The company's cybersecurity failures make it vulnerable to exploitation, causing real harm to real people," Zatko said, per NPR. He detailed the personal information Twitter collects on users and gave lawmakers this hypothetical, per CNN: "It's not far fetched to say a Twitter employee could take over the accounts of all of the senators in this room." Zatko said that while at Twitter, the FBI told the company about the presence of a Chinese spy in Twitter's ranks. The Times reports that when he raised concerns about a possible foreign agent on the payroll, an exec told him: "Well, since we already have one, what is the problem if we have more? Let's keep growing the office."

Twitter has accused Zatko of trying to inflict harm on the company, He told lawmakers Tuesday that he wants to company to succeed, but that can "only happen if the privacy and security of Twitter's users and the public are protected."

  • Meanwhile, Twitter shareholders voted Tuesday to approve the $44 billion acquisition Elon Musk proposed in April, the Verge reports. Musk is waging a court battle to back out of the deal, and a judge ruled earlier this month that he can use Zatko's claims in his countersuit. As Zatko started testifying Tuesday, Musk tweeted a popcorn emoji.
(More Twitter stories.)

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