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In front of Congress, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko asserted that Twitter lacks the capability to remove the variables endangering the privacy of its users’ data. Some of the company’s employees may be acting as spies, he continued.
The whistleblower described a scenario in which a Twitter employee rejected a concern about a spy danger during his testimony. Even when it seemed to pose potential risks to the company’s operations, the employee disregarded the worry.
Zatko went on to say that the FBI had previously warned Twitter that there were Chinese spies working for Twitter before he came forward as a whistleblower in January. It’s not yet known if Twitter has corrected the issue. While all is going on, the FBI appears to be keeping quiet.
Twitter has persistent issues, in Zatko’s opinion. The safety of the company’s user data may be compromised by them. Furthermore, the company’s alleged ineptitude in fixing the issues poses a threat to US national security.
Zatko cited a number of problems that he said Twitter had to substantiate his claims. Twitter’s improper handling of user data, its breach of the consent agreement it signed with the US Federal Trade Commission in 2011, and the fact that most of its workers were given access to private user data were only a few of the issues mentioned by the whistleblower.
All of the shortcomings Zatko listed in front of Congress point to Twitter’s inability to obtain and neutralize these threats—namely, the spies operating within its personnel.
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The purpose of coming forward
Legal counsel for Zatko, Alexis Ronickher, said that they are contributing to the safety of users on the internet.
“Mr. Zatko is hopeful that the Committee’s work today has helped educate the public about just how dire the security and privacy situation is at Twitter and how impacted we all are by these failures. He continues to believe that through this public disclosure process, real-world harm for Twitter users may be avoided and our country’s national security better protected,” said the legal counsel.
The implications of Zatko’s charges were also emphasized by legislators during the session. They claimed that in order to secure the people and the nation, intervention that poses a threat to Twitter should be taken seriously. The head of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Dick Durbin, asserted that Twitter is a strong platform and shouldn’t allow its security measures to be easily compromised.
Twitter faces external threats
As he continued, Zatko revealed that China and Russia might be able to snoop on files held in the US. Over 7,000 Twitter workers, according to testimony by Zatko, have access to sensitive user data, making that data available to hacking should the company hire spies.
He further stated that private data such as email addresses, phone numbers, IP addresses, locations, home addresses, languages, and other data might all be compromised by foreign governments for any purpose.
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Additionally, Twitter does not have an internal system monitoring system that keeps track of who accesses important data; thus, any employee can gain access to it without the company knowing who it is. The perpetrator of such heinous deeds would consequently be hard to identify.
“There were thousands of failed attempts to access internal systems that were happening per week, and nobody was noticing. This fundamental lack of logging inside Twitter is a remnant of being so far behind on their infrastructure and the engineering,” added Zatko.
“A Twitter engineer, understanding how the running systems and the data flows were operating, could then access and inject, or put forward, information as … any of the senators sitting here today.”