FBI warned Twitter it may have Chinese agent on payroll, Sen. Grassley says

Peiter Zatko, known as Mudge in the computer hacking community, poses for a portrait in Washington, D.C., on August 22, 2022. (Sarah Silbiger for CNN)

With his decision to go public with his concerns, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko could find himself at the center of renewed regulatory scrutiny of Twitter, as happened when Frances Haugen blew the whistle on Facebook.

Before joining Twitter, Zatko, now 51, led an influential cybersecurity grantmaking program at the Pentagon, worked at a Google division for developing cutting-edge technology, helped build the cybersecurity team at fintech firm Stripe, and advised US lawmakers and officials on how to plug security holes in the internet.

Twitter hired Zatko in November 2020 to beef up cybersecurity and privacy at the company in the wake of a high-profile hack, allegedly spearheaded by a Florida teenager, in July 2020 that compromised the Twitter accounts of some of the most famous people on the planet, including then-presidential candidate Joe Biden. The senior executive role meant Zatko reported directly to then-CEO Jack Dorsey, according to the disclosure.

Some who’ve worked alongside Zatko over the last three decades paint a picture of him as a principled technologist with a knack for making the complex accessible and an earnest desire to fix problems, as he’s done for much of his career working with the public and private sector. The decision to blow the whistle, they say, is in keeping with that approach.

His career has shown that “there was more to hacking than just one-upping each other, that there was actually a social good and impact that you could have,” said Dug Song, chief strategy officer at Cisco Security, who has known Zatko since the 1990s. 

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