Who is Peiter Zatko, the potential game-changer whistleblower in the Twitter-Musk lawsuit?

The whistleblower is heard this Tuesday, September 13 by the US Senate. His testimony could be valuable for Elon Musk, determined not to buy the social network anymore.

Peiter Zatko, a former Twitter employee, unveiled a series of information on August 23 that undermined the image of the social network. In the context of the trial with Elon Musk, but also in view of the revelations made, Zatko will be heard by the US Senate on Tuesday, September 13.

Peiter Zatko, nicknamed “Mudge” (“mud”) is no stranger to the cybersecurity community: he even embodies a known and respected figure for a long time. In 1995, then aged 25, he published a series of books to learn how to hack Windows. His approach is that of “white hat”, “ethical” hackers: when he hacks a system, it is to report a lack of security.

This September 13 does not mark his first hearing in the Senate; he had been auditioned there in 1998, at the age of 27, to testify to the security risks linked to the Internet. He and six other men will launch the alert that day, they are members of the L0pht collective, American hackers whose reputation is mythical.

Peiter Zatko will be employed for a time at Google, the online payment service Stripe, and several other information security companies. He finally joined the prestigious Darpa in 2010, the agency responsible for developing new technologies in the United States.

It was in 2020 that Zatko was recruited by Jack Dorsey, then CEO of the social network Twitter. The cybersecurity specialist is somehow called to the rescue after a massive hack of the platform, where the accounts of celebrities and political figures were hacked. Its job is to prevent and limit security breaches.

These same security flaws which, moreover, will constitute, two years later, an 84-page file that Zatko will send to the American Congress. The cybersecurity expert will only stay at Twitter for barely two years. In January 2022, Peiter Zatko is indeed thanked for “ineffective leadership” and “poor performance”.

His hearing before the US Senate, this Tuesday, September 13, is at the heart of several issues. On Twitter, Peiter Zatko pointed out numerous security flaws in many respects. Among these, a lack of rigor in the management of users’ personal data, the high probability of foreign interference, but also a lack of transparency on these security problems, which are however known to the executive.

His testimony could be decisive in the trial between the social network and billionaire Elon Musk. The latter, who was to buy Twitter but finally gave up, relies in particular on the revelations adjoining the number of fake accounts on the platform, a parameter which he claims to be crucial.

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