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Twitter warned by FBI that it employs a Chinese agent: whistleblower

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Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko portrayed the social-media giant as a cesspool of cybersecurity and privacy risks in dramatic congressional testimony on Tuesday — and even claimed the positioning had a minimum of one undercover Chinese agent on its payroll. 

Zatko, a famed hacker who worked as Twitter’s head of security between November 2020 and early this yr, was called to testify after he filed a dramatic whistleblower criticism in August alleging that the positioning poses a risk to national security. Twitter has accused him of constructing misleading claims.

The whistleblower claimed in his Tuesday testimony that 1000’s of Twitter employees — potentially including spies — have access to sensitive user data including private messages, current locations, home addresses and phone numbers. 

He said that Twitter didn’t know the alleged Chinese agent was on its payroll until the corporate was contacted by the FBI.

“I had been told, because the company security, physical security team had been contacted and told there was a minimum of one agent of the [Ministry of State Security], which is one in all China’s intelligence services, on the payroll inside Twitter,” Zatko said. 

In case you aren’t placing foreign agents inside Twitter… you’re more than likely not doing all of your job,” Zatko said of spying at Twitter. AFP via Getty Images

He also reiterated previous claims that Twitter employed a minimum of one Indian agent — and testified that Twitter was woefully ill-equipped to take care of an array of security challenges because top executives didn’t heed his concerns. 

“While it was disturbing to listen to [about spying at Twitter], I and plenty of others, recognizing the state of the environment at Twitter, were really pondering, if you happen to aren’t placing foreign agents inside Twitter — since it’s very difficult to detect them, it is extremely invaluable to a foreign agent to be inside there, as a foreign intelligence company – you’re more than likely not doing all of your job,” added Zatko.

Zatko worked as Twitter’s security chief for just a little greater than a yr until January 2022, when Twitter has said he was fired for “poor performance and ineffective leadership.”

A Twitter spokesperson said in an announcement to The Post: “Today’s hearing only confirms that Mr. Zatko’s allegations are riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.”

The spokesperson added that the corporate’s hiring process is freed from foreign influence and said that user data is protected through security measures including background checks, access controls and monitoring systems.

During his testimony, Zatko also recalled a conversation with an unnamed Twitter executive, who he claimed shrugged off concerns concerning the risks of spies compromising the corporate. 

“I’m reminded of 1 conversation with an executive once I said, ‘I’m confident that we now have a foreign agent,’ and their response was, ‘Well, since we have already got one, what does it matter if we now have more? Let’s continue to grow the office,” Zatko said. 

Zatko made the comments during a two-and-a-half hour hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee that concluded just half-hour before Twitter shareholders formally approved a $44 billion buyout offer from Elon Musk that the mogul is now looking for to withdraw. 

Twitter shares were up greater than 0.5% at $41.70 early Tuesday afternoon.

In the course of the hearing politicians from each political parties blasted Twitter for its alleged indifference to privacy and security problems. 

The highest Republican on the Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, called on Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to resign if Zatko’s claims prove to be true. 

“If these allegations are true, I don’t see how Mr. Agrawal can maintain his position at Twitter,” Grassley fumed. 

Grassley also blasted Agrawal for rejecting a call to testify in front of the committee. Agrawal rejected the request because it will “jeopardize” the corporate’s ongoing legal battle against Elon Musk over his takeover bid, Grassley said. 

Nearly an hour into the hearing, Musk appeared entertained as he tweeted a popcorn emoji. 

Peiter ZatkoTwitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko accused Twitter of tolerating foreign spies. AFP via Getty Images

Musk last week got permission from a Delaware judge to make use of Zatko’s claims in his legal battle to get out of the deal. He also sent a letter to Twitter on Friday arguing that he must be allowed to ditch the deal, citing Zatko’s revelations. 

Yet Musk’s primary argument against Twitter involves the corporate allegedly misleading investors concerning the variety of spam bots — a subject that received no coverage on Tuesday.

Neither Zatko nor any lawmaker said the words “bot” or “spam” in the course of the hearing. 

As a substitute, they focused on privacy and security concerns. 

Independent Security Consultant and Twitter Whistleblower Peiter Zatko arrives to testify before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Sept. 13, 2022. AFP via Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-In poor health.) likewise blasted Twitter for what he said were lax data protection policies that put users in danger.

“At Twitter, the door to that vault is wide open,” Durbin said. “And that vault comprises lots more details about you than you’ll be able to imagine.”

“Twitter’s CEO is more concerned with increasing influence and profits from foreign countries than protecting user data from foreign spies or hackers,” Mike Lee (R-Utah) said. 

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