During a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Twitter security chief turned whistleblower Peiter Zatko shed new light on his claims that the company’s lax security practices harmed US national security. new complaints was that the company had a Chinese agent on its payroll who worked for the country’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).
During his opening statement, Senator Chuck Grassley stated that “the FBI notified Twitter of at least one Chinese agent at the company.” In the public version of his whistleblower complaint, Zatko claimed he had been warned that the company was employing “one or more” people who were “working on behalf of another particular foreign intelligence agency.” But the version of the complaint that was made public, parts of which were redacted, did not specify which country the FBI was referring to.
In his testimony, Zatko confirmed that the company had been warned about the presence of Chinese agents. “This was brought to my attention maybe a week before I was summarily fired,” Zatko said. “I had been told because the corporate security/physical security team had been contacted and told that there was at least one agent from MSS, which is one of China’s intelligence services on the payroll within Twitter.”
Zatko also raised concerns about the presence of foreign agents from other countries, including India, which he said “forced” Twitter to hire government agents.
In particular, the Zatko revelations are not the first time that Twitter has had to deal with the presence of unregistered foreign agents on its payroll. A former Twitter worker was recently convicted of acting as an agent for Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors alleged that the man was paid to hand over sensitive information about the dissidents.
Zatko argued that the danger posed by foreign agents was made even greater by a litany of factors: the sheer amount of data the platform collects and its lack of understanding of that data, as well as the broad and largely unrestricted access it have the Twitter engineers. . “It’s not unreasonable to say that an employee within the company could take over the accounts of every senator in this room,” Zatko said.
The hearing is likely to add to the pressure on Twitter, which has so far refused to address Zatko’s claims in detail. Senator Grassley said the committee also invited Executive Director Parag Agrawal to testify at the hearing, but that he “refused to appear.”
“You declined this committee’s invitation to appear on the grounds that it would jeopardize Twitter’s ongoing litigation, Mr. Musk,” Grassley said, referring to the company’s legal battle with Elon Musk over his $44 billion acquisition of the company. . “Protecting Americans from foreign influence is more important than the Twitter civil litigation in Delaware. If these allegations are true, I don’t see how Mr. Agrawal can maintain his position on Twitter in the future.”
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