Twitter Appoints Famed Hacker As Security Head

Twitter has undertaken a radical shakeup of its security operations with the news it has appointed one of the world’s best-regarded hackers to tighten up its cyber defences.

According to Reuters, on Monday Twitter named Peiter Zatko, otherwise known by hacker handle ‘Mudge’, to the new position of head of security.

It comes after Twitter’s security was embarrassingly exposed in July this year when a range of high-profile accounts including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, as well as Barack Obama, were compromised to promote a bitcoin scam.

Twitter security

Twitter subsequently confirmed that the hackers had targeted a small number of its staff through a phone “spear phishing” attack, in order to compromise Twitter admin systems.

But now Twitter is hoping that the appointment of Peiter Zatko will tighten security up at the firm.

Zatko has, according to Reuters, been given “a broad mandate to recommend changes in structure and practices.”

Zatko will answer to CEO Jack Dorsey and is expected to take over management of key security functions after a 45- to 60-day review.

Zatko told Reuters he will examine “information security, site integrity, physical security, platform integrity – which starts to touch on abuse and manipulation of the platform – and engineering.”

Zatko most recently oversaw security at the electronic payments unicorn Stripe.

Before that, he worked on special projects at Google and oversaw handing out grants for projects on cybersecurity at the Pentagon’s famed Defense Advanced Research and Projects Agency (DARPA).

Zatko confirmed his appointment on Twitter.

“Looks like the cat is out of the bag,” he tweeted. “I’m very excited to be joining the executive team at Twitter!”

“I truly believe in the mission of (equitably) serving the public conversation,” he added. “I will do my best!”

Cult of Dead Cow

Zatko is well known in hacking circles, after he made his name in the 1990s when when he simultaneously conducted classified work for a government contractor and was among the leaders of Cult of the Dead Cow.

This hacking group made its name by releasing Windows hacking tools in order to goad Microsoft into improving security.

The appointment of Zatko comes after Twitter CEO Dorsey survived a bout on investor unrest earlier this year.

Earlier this month Twitter’s board of directors gave their full backing to Dorsey.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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