The FBI warned Twitter it may have a Chinese agent on its payroll

Posted 81 days ago


A former security officer at Twitter told senators on Tuesday that he learned a Chinese intelligence agent was on the social media company's payroll a week before he was dismissed.

It was just one of a string of vulnerabilities unveiled by Peiter 'Mudge' Zatko, a respected cybersecurity expert.

He was hired in November 2020 after a hack that compromised high-profile accounts but was fired barely a year later.

Such were the security failings, he said he was not surprised to learn that an agent of the Chinese Ministry of State Security was operating inside Twitter.

'I had been told because the corporate security physical security team had been contacted and told that there was at least one agent of the MSS, which is one of China's intelligence services, on the payroll inside Twitter,' he told a hearing of the Senate Judicial Committee.

'While it was disturbing to hear, I and many others, recognising the state of the environment at Twitter, were really thinking if you are not placing foreign agents inside Twitter - because it's very difficult to detect them ... it is very valuable to a foreign agent to be inside there - as a foreign intelligence company, you're most likely not doing your job.'

His warnings echo similar criticisms of other social media giants, such as Facebook, that they are not doing enough to protect user data.

And he accused executives of ignoring engineers and their concerns, putting profits ahead of security.

When he raised the problem of a foreign agent, it got short shrift.

'I'm reminded of one conversation with an executive when I said, "I am confident that we have a foreign agent," and their response was, "Well, since we already have one, what does it matter if we have more? Let's keep growing the office," Zaitko said.

Too many Twitter staff had access to sensitive data, he continued, coupled with a culture of only reporting good news.... (Read more)