Under increased threat of regulation and plagued by serious security breaches, micro-blogging platform Twitter appointed Peiter Zatko, one of the world’s best-regarded hackers, as its head of security with the aim to tackle everything from engineering missteps to misinformation.
Zatko, widely known by his hacker handle Mudge, has been given the broad mandate to recommend changes in structure and practices and is expected to take over management of key security functions after a 45- to 60-day review. He has also overseen security at the electronic payments unicorn Stripe before which he worked on special projects at Google and oversaw handing out grants for projects on cyber-security at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency (DARPA).
After the announcement by Twitter, Zatko tweeted, “Looks like the cat is out of the bag. I’m very excited to be joining the executive team at Twitter! I truly believe in the mission of (equitably) serving the public conversation. I will do my best!”
Security challenges faced by Twitter
In July, a celebrity Megahack happened on Twitter when Twitter accounts, owned by politicians, celebrities, and large organisations suddenly started tweeting messages to their many millions of followers, at the behest of hackers. A group of young hackers tricked employees and won access to internal tools, which let them change account settings and then tweet from the accounts of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk. The messages urged users to send X number of Bitcoin to a wallet in order to receive more Bitcoin in return.
Read more | Facebook, Twitter CEOs to be pressed on election handling
A year ago, the US government accused two men of spying for Saudi Arabia when they worked at Twitter years earlier, saying that they passed along private information about the kingdom’s critics.
What has Zatko said about his appointment?
In an interview to Reuters, Zatko said that he was committed to improving public conversations on Twitter. He praised a recent move to increase “friction” by prompting users to comment instead of simply retweeting; a next step could be to force people to understand a long conversation before participating in it, he said. Zatko also appreciated Twitter’s openness to “unconventional security approaches”.