whistleblower brings his criticism to Congress | national news

By MARCY GORDON – AP Business Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Twitter security chief will appear before Congress on Tuesday with alarming allegations that the social platform misled regulators about its cyber defenses and efforts to police millions of fake accounts.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a respected cybersecurity expert, will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to outline his concerns. Zatko’s claims could also affect Tesla billionaire Elon Musk’s bid to walk away from his $44 billion deal to acquire the social platform. Musk says Twitter has long underestimated spambots on its platform and cites that as a reason to roll back the deal he made in April.

Zatko was the influential platform’s chief security officer until he was fired earlier this year. He filed a whistleblower complaint in July with Congress, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Among its most serious charges, Twitter violated the terms of a 2011 FTC settlement by falsely claiming that it had stricter measures in place to protect the security and privacy of its users.

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The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, called Zatko’s accusations a “serious matter.”

“If it’s somewhere along the lines that (he) suggested, I think it’s a serious matter of personal confidentiality,” Durbin told reporters on Monday. “The question is whether the information collected by Twitter has been used for purposes that we are not aware of.”

Many of Zatko’s claims are unsubstantiated and appear to have little documentary evidence. Twitter called Zatko’s description of events a “false narrative…riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies” and lacking in significant context.

Zatko also accuses the company of deception in its handling of automated “spam bots” or fake accounts. This allegation is at the heart of billionaire tycoon Elon Musk’s bid to pull out of his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. Musk and Twitter are locked in a bitter legal battle, with Twitter suing Musk to force him into the deal. The Delaware judge overseeing the case ruled last week that Musk can include new evidence related to Zatko’s allegations in the high-stakes trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 17.

Zatko, 51, first rose to prominence in the 1990s as an ethical hacker and later held senior positions at an elite Defense Department research unit and at Google. He joined Twitter in late 2020 at the request of then-CEO Jack Dorsey.

Follow Marcy Gordon on https://twitter.com/mgordonap

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