Peiter Zatko is probably one of the most protective figures in the history of cybersecurity. Famous hacker, the one who is also known under the name of “Mudge” was recruited Monday, November 16 to the post of head of the security of information services (RSSI) of the social network Twitter.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Peiter Zatko announced that his assignments would cover combating the spread of false information and protecting the company from security breaches. Skills that the Californian company, which manages Twitter around the world from its headquarters in San Francisco, badly needs.
For almost a year, the platform has been facing a succession of controversies around its IT security. At the end of 2019, the US government accused two former Twitter employees, for example, of spying on opponents of Saudi Arabia.
More recently, in July, a group of hackers managed to take control of dozens of Twitter accounts – including those of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Apple and Elon Musk – in an attempt to launch a bitcoin scam. A controversy that was seen as a wake-up call according to Alex Stamos, former Facebook security manager and researcher at Stanford University. In an interview granted to Reuters, he explains :
“This summer’s data breach was an important reminder for Twitter to realize how much still needs to be done to implement some basic security features. And this, while his service is the target of opponents much more talented than the teenagers arrested in this incident. “
For Alex Stamos, the arrival of Peiter Zatko is a « gift » for a company like Twitter, which does not have the financial stature of Facebook or Google. “They’re going to have to come up with creative solutions to deal with these issues, and if Mudge is known for one thing in security, it’s good to be creative. »
“Companies don’t care about security”
Peiter Zatko is well known to large companies, especially when it comes to cybersecurity issues. Before joining Twitter, he oversaw corporate security Stripe, an electronic payments platform valued at over $ 1 billion… and founded by Twitter boss Jack Dorsey.
From 2010 to 2013, Peiter Zatko also worked with the Advanced Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA), at the Pentagon, to oversee the awarding of grants for cybersecurity projects. Before joining, in 2013, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects cluster: an incubator launched by the search engine and created by the former director of DARPA, Regina Dugan.
But the reason why Peiter Zatko is famous in the field of cybersecurity dates back to the late 1990s. In 1996, he joined a group of hackers called Cult of the Dead Cow, which made headlines when it released in 1998 hacking tools for the Windows operating system. Their goal: to allow Microsoft to improve its security.
At the same time, Mudge joined another group of hackers, L0pht Heavy Industries. It was alongside six other members of the group that in May 1998 he will discuss before the Senate the many Internet vulnerabilities of the time. At the height of his 27 years, he is already exasperated to see companies not take cybersecurity seriously.
“Your computers aren’t safe – neither the software, nor the hardware, nor the networks that bind them together. The companies that build these things don’t care and have no reason to be concerned, because failures don’t cost them anything. And the federal government has neither the jurisdiction nor the will to do anything about it. “
“They are ready to take risks”
Peiter Zatko’s arrival comes as Twitter is already in the spotlight because of its users’ activities related to the 2020 US election. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and his Facebook counterpart were also heard by the Senate November 17 on this issue.
Heavily criticized during the 2016 elections for having played a major role in the spread of disinformation online, the platform is now trying to look good, by having applied new rules: what goes to Donald Trump, these these days, to have a label applied under the Tweet where he claims, without tangible proof, to have won the election of November 3 – the victory of which was attributed to Joe Biden.
Asked by Reuters, Mudge praised Twitter’s new approach to security concerns: according to him, the company appears to have agreed to open up to unconventional security approaches. “They are ready to take risks, he asserts. With the challenges of algorithms and algorithmic biases, they are not ready to wait for someone else to solve the problem. », he said, while Twitter relies heavily on automated moderation of problematic content detected by computer tools.
In a Tweet published at the time of the announcement, Peiter Zatko added:
“I am very happy to join the Twitter management team! I truly believe in the mission of serving (fairly) public conversation. I’ll do my best ! “