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Cyber expert on Twitter whistleblower: 'If allegations are true,' accounts at-risk

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read

Twitter (TWTR) whistleblower Peiter Zatko, the company's former security chief, recently charged that the company misled regulators and is operating with security vulnerabilities. If true, the safety of Twitter users' accounts could be in jeopardy, according to cyber threat expert Tony Anscombe (video above).

"If the allegations are true, yes, there's probably an increased risk," said Anscombe, who's Chief Cyber Threat Officer at Slovakia-based cybersecurity software provider ESET.

This month, Zatko went public with his claims that many of Twitter's security practices are negligent, that the company has let its bot problems fester, and that Twitter has repeatedly misled the Federal Trade Commission—and the company's directors—about the platform's safety. The bottom line: Zatko's allegations may suggest that users' data is vulnerable, even for deleted accounts, said Anscombe.

"There's some very serious allegations about whether data is being encrypted, whether the company has patched servers... and whether they're cyber resilient, and some of those are fundamental to every business in cybersecurity," he told Yahoo Finance.

Amid Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk's now-withdrawn $44 billion bid for the company – and the subsequent legal battle that's in-progress – Twitter shares have been on a roller coaster this year-to-date. Over the last twelve months, Twitter's shares are down almost 40%.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 22: Peiter Zatko, who is also known as Mudge poses for a portrait on Monday August 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. He has worked for Google and Twitter. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 22: Peiter Zatko, who is also known as Mudge poses for a portrait on Monday August 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. He has worked for Google and Twitter. (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

It seems like Twitter's taking heat from all sides right now. Zatko's allegations and Musk's lawsuit are already crossing over – Musk's lawyers have subpoenaed Zatko to speak to Twitter's failures when it comes to the proliferation of bots, an issue Musk has cited in his efforts to renege on the deal. The company has also frozen most hiring, rescinded job offers, and laid off 30% of its talent acquisition team earlier this summer.

However, there are silver linings. For one, Twitter isn't data-heavy for many users unlike, say, Meta Platforms' (META) Instagram or Facebook.

"I would say that Twitter isn't a platform where we overshare lots of personal information. It's not a full social media play in that way," said Anscombe.

Additionally, in the case of Zatko and the concerns he's publicized about Twitter's cyber safety, there's good news for consumers.

"One thing I think is a takeaway is that when somebody makes an allegation of this type, it's actually good for the user of that business," he said. "If the allegations are unfounded, then the company's probably running an audit anyway to make sure that they haven't got any weaknesses and, if they are founded, they're running around fixing those things. So, actually, the end result is a good thing."

Twitter shares closed at $40 a share on Monday. Musk's original bid for Twitter shook out to $54.20 per share.

Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks.

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