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Twitter Appoints Hacker ‘Mudge’ as Head of Cybersecurity


In a tweet sent earlier this month, Peiter Zatko, better known by the handle “Mudge,” confirmed that he would join the social media giant’s executive team. The appointment comes just months after Twitter faced its biggest cybersecurity crisis. Appointing the celebrated hacker and cybersecurity expert is a clear signal of how seriously the company is responding to increasing cyber threats.

Zatko was widely celebrated during the 1990s both for his skills as a cybersecurity researcher and a hacker. He was a member of the DIY and hactivist group Cult of the Dead Cow, known particularly for exploiting security weaknesses in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

He later served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton on emerging cybersecurity threats and then as part of the Defense Department’s DARPA program. More recently, Zatko worked with Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division and the electronic payment startup Stripe.

Plugging Security Gaps in a Tech Giant

Zatko joins Twitter at a moment when the company is still reeling from a series of cybersecurity failures earlier this year. In July, a 17-year-old from Florida masterminded a cyber attack that allowed him and two accomplices to gain control of 130 high profile Twitter accounts. targeted accounts included former President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Joe Biden, Elon Musk, and musician Kanye West.

The teenager convinced a Twitter employee that he was a co-worker in the technology department and got him to share his administrative credentials, according to a report in the New York Times. Once inside the system, the teenager and his accomplices were able to take control of user accounts. They were also able to seize control of accounts belonging to cryptocurrency companies. By sending fake messages, they were able to steal more than $100,000 in bitcoin.

The attackers were able to send tweets from 45 of the compromised accounts before Twitter was able to lock them out of the system. They were also able to get access to direct messages in 36 of the accounts, and full user information from seven others.

Changing the Conversation and the Security Culture

In addition to security threats, Twitter has faced criticism about perceived limits to free speech on the platform. In October, Dorsey testified before the Senate Commerce Committee to defend recent content decisions. In particular, Dorsey was pressed about Twitter’s refusal to allow the sharing of a New York Post article alleging fraud by then presidential candidate and now President-Elect Joe Biden. The decision to block the story has since been rescinded.

In a recent Reuters report, Zatko said Twitter had given him a broad mandate to recommend both practical and structural changes as head of security reporting directly to CEO Jack Dorsey. He said part of his job would involve addressing “the abuse and manipulation of the platform” as a way of improving public conversations on the platform.

Avoiding Social Media Cyber Threats

It’s easy to overlook just how much personal information users include in their various social media channels. From sites like Linkedin and Facebook, potential attackers can gather a trove of personal and professional details that can be used effectively in various phishing scams that use emails, text messages or friend requests to get users to click on links that can infect your computer or phone.

A good rule of thumb to protect yourself from cyber attacks through social media is to avoid accepting friend requests from anyone you don’t recognize or who doesn’t share any connections with your other friends. As with any other phishing scheme, don’t click on links in emails or text messages that are not clearly identifiable as legitimate links. If you don’t recognize the sender, and you didn’t request the link, delete it.

It’s not always possible to prevent an attack. Devices infected with malware can compromise your personal information or render your data inaccessible. At Secure Data Recovery Services, we have the tools and experience to meet any data recovery challenge you might face. If you experience data loss as a result of a cyberattack, or if you have a damaged or failing drive, call us at 1-800-388-1266 to open a case.

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