Given Twitter’s global presence as a communications platform, other countries, such as Russia and China, may require the company to hire its own government officials as a condition of allowing the company to operate in their country. Zatko’s allegations about Twitter’s internal security raise the possibility that criminals, activists, hostile governments, or their supporters may want to abuse Twitter’s systems and user data by recruiting or blackmailing employees. national security concerns.
Worse, Twitter’s own information about its users, their interests, and who they follow and interact with on the platform can target it for disinformation campaigns, blackmail or other nefarious purposes. Such foreign targets of prominent companies and their employees have been a major concern for counterintelligence in the national security community for decades.
Whatever the outcome of Zatko’s complaint to Congress, the SEC, or other federal agencies, it’s already here part of Musk’s latest legal files while trying to forgo his purchase from Twitter.
Ideally, in light of these disclosures, Twitter will take corrective action to improve the company’s cybersecurity systems and practices. A good first step the company could take is to review and restrict who has root access to its systems, source code, and user data to the minimum necessary. The company also needs to ensure that its manufacturing systems remain up-to-date and that it is effectively prepared to deal with any type of emergency without significantly disrupting its global operations.
From a broader perspective, Zatko’s complaint underscores the critical and sometimes inconvenient role cybersecurity plays in modern organizations. Cybersecurity professionals like Zatko understand that no company or government agency likes to publicize cybersecurity issues. They tend to think long and hard about whether and how cybersecurity issues like this can be addressed, and what the possible consequences could be. In this case, Zatko says his revelations reflect “the job he has been hired to do” as chief of security for a social media platform he believes is “critical to democracy”.
For companies like Twitter, bad news about cybersecurity often results in a public relations nightmare that can affect the stock price and their position in the market, not to mention the interest of regulators and lawmakers. For governments, such revelations could lead to a lack of confidence in the institutions created to serve society, as well as potentially distracting political noise.
Unfortunately, the way cybersecurity issues are discovered, disclosed, and handled remains a difficult and sometimes controversial process, with no easy solutions for both cybersecurity professionals and today’s organizations.