Becoming A Whistleblower 'Is The Last Resort' A Cybersecurity Expert Has

Peiter "Mudge" Zatko
security expert, programmer, writer, hacker

Fiddling with a keyboard, often with restless nights and less kempt, staring at a computer screen for hours and hours at a time.

Hackers know a lot about the risks facing technology users.

Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, is a security pioneer, a network security expert, open source programmer, writer, and a hacker. He was the most prominent member of the high-profile hacker think tank the L0pht, as well as the computer and culture hacking cooperative the Cult of the Dead Cow. He was also a program manager at DARPA, and worked at Google at its Advanced Technology & Projects division.

All that before becoming the head of security at Twitter.

In other words, Zatko has more experience in hacking and computer security than most people in the world.

Zatko however, was fired from Twitter, less than two years after founder and then-CEO Jack Dorsey brought him in.

And this is when he became a whistleblower.


When Twitter is involved in a legal battle with Elon Musk, when the Tesla CEO said his intention to buy Twitter for $44 billion, Zatko wants to fulfill his commitment to make Twitter a better place for itself, and its users, through any legal means.

This is why, he is exposing the rotten things that work behind the scene.

It all began when Zatko was hired by Dorsey.

Dorsey knew that Zatko, as a security expert, follows his own moral, which encompasses saying the truth to change what's necessary.

With the "make a dent in the universe" motto, Zatko was hired "to improve the health of the public conversation" after a hacker hijacked verified Twitter accounts of political leaders, companies, and celebrities, to promote Bitcoin scam in 2020.

"There was no way I wasn’t going to step up to the plate and take some swings."

But at one time, Zatko informed members of Twitter’s board that protections for sensitive user data were weaker than they had been told.

"Twitter executives have little or no personal incentive to accurately ‘detect’ or measure the prevalence of spam bots," read the complaint. "Senior management had no appetite to properly measure the prevalence of bot accounts […] they were concerned that if accurate measurements ever became public, it would harm the image and valuation of the company.”

In the end, he was fired by Parag Agrawal, who replaces Dorsey as Twitter' CEO.

And when he realized that Twitter is about to be acquired by Elon Musk, he thought to himself that he needed to act.

This is where he filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accusing Twitter of violating its agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)..

Among Zatko’s most serious accusations is that Twitter violated the terms of a 2011 FTC settlement by falsely claiming that it had put stronger measures in place to protect the security and privacy of its users. Zatko also accuses the company of deceptions involving its handling of “spam” or fake accounts, an allegation that is at the core of Musk’s attempt to back out of the Twitter takeover.

"Being a public whistle-blower is the last resort, something that I would only ever do after I had exhausted all other means. It is not an easy path, but I view it as continuing to help improve the place where I was employed."

Zatko is best known by his hacker handle "Mudge."

As a highly respected cybersecurity expert who first gained prominence in the 1990s and later worked in senior positions at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Agency and Google, Zatko was trusted by Dorsey to help him solve the toxicity of Twitter, before Dorsey's successor fired Zatko.

Twitter said that Zatko’s claims were false, exaggerated and out of date.

"Mr. Zatko was fired from Twitter more than six months ago for poor performance and leadership, and he now appears to be opportunistically seeking to inflict harm on Twitter, its customers, and its shareholders," said Rebecca Hahn, Twitter’s global vice president of communications.

But Zatko, through his lawyers, denied that he meant harm, or that he was being opportunistic.

"I joined Twitter because it’s a critical resource to the world," Zatko said from his home in the New York City area.

"All news seems to be either from Twitter or goes to Twitter for the coloring and context, and as such, it not only paints public opinion, it can change governments."

It was unfortunate that Zatko didn’t blend well into Twitter’s culture.