In brief

  • Twitter has added famed hacker Pieter “Mudge” Zatko as head of security.
  • Zatko will perform an extensive security review and suggest changes.
  • Following his rise as a prominent hacker, Zatko worked at DARPA and Google.

Twitter suffered a massive hack in July, resulting in more than 100 high-profile accounts—including those of President-elect Joe Biden, Apple, and Elon Musk—tweeting out scam messages asking people to send Bitcoin.

Some $120,000 worth of Bitcoin was lost to scammers in the process, but Twitter might have suffered the largest impact, with surveyed Americans reporting lost trust in centralized social media platforms soon after.

Today, however, Twitter announced a key hire as it aims to avoid a similar event in the future. Twitter has added famed hacker Peiter Zatko, a.k.a. “Mudge”, to join its executive team and serve as Head of Security for the social network.

Zatko was previously a member of hacker think tank L0pht Heavy Industries, as well as a member of hacker collective Cult of the Dead Cow. He testified before a Senate committee in 1998 about cybersecurity and briefed President Bill Clinton in 2000 about DDoS attacks. More recently, Zatko served as project manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) starting in 2010 before leaving in 2013 to work for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group.

According to Reuters, Zatko will conduct a 45- to 60-day review of the site and has been given a “broad mandate” to suggest changes to how Twitter handles security in all forms. Zatko tells the publication that he will focus on “information security, site integrity, physical security, platform integrity—which starts to touch on abuse and manipulation of the platform—and engineering.”

“They are willing to take some risks,” said Zatko about Twitter. “With the challenges of algorithms and algorithmic bias, they are not standing by and waiting until someone else solves the problem.”

Twitter is also working on a decentralized social media model that could serve as the future of the service. CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey is an outspoken fan of Bitcoin and blockchain, and recently detailed how he believes both can reshape Twitter’s business.