For hackers all over the world he is a semi deity. His name has been around in the IT world for at least 20 years. Not his real name actually, but his hacker name: Mudge. And on his work his voice is unanimous: Peter Zatko He is a myth. He once said that he and his team could shut down the internet anywhere in the world in less than 30 minutes. It was true. He worked for US government organizations and in sensitive roles after the 9/11 attacks.
Zatko is the former manager of Twitter which on Tuesday accused the company of having poor care of its own IT security, of users’ privacy, of having its doors open to malicious cyber infiltration, but above all of not being able to do anything against fake accounts on the platform. Simply because it does not have the tools to counter them. Music for the ears of Elon Musk, who because of the uncertainty about the number of fake accounts wants to blow up his deal to buy the social network for 44 billion dollars.
Zatko worked at Twitter for a little over a year as head of security. Twitter fired him in January of this year for poor job performance. The suspicion is that Mudge may have acted out of spite. True or not, the di him is one of the most adored profiles in the world of cybersecurity.
He is considered among the leading experts in a complex world accessible to a few, and where it takes study and perseverance to reach the top.
The origins of Mudge: music, passion for progressive rock
Yet Zatko did not study computer science or security. In college he prefers to study music. He graduates from Berklee college of Music di Boston as the best in its class. Before hacking into computer systems, his passion was violin and guitar. The Rock progressive his favorite genre. As a boy he also plays in a band. Progressive rock, needless to say: the Raymakers.
But after the university Zatko was hired by the Bbn Technologies, an IT research and development company. The nineties. The dawn of cybersecurity. There he founds his corporate security group, he told Berklee Alumni magazine. While working at BBN, Zatko joined a group of hacker friends to form the collective l0phtBoston-based, which set out to find and disclose vulnerabilities in enterprise software, including Microsoft Windows.
The climb into cybersecurity
“We fooled them a bit and they hated us for it, but that was one of the main reasons Microsoft created a security team,” Zatko later tells Berklee Alumni magazine. In 1998, Zatko appears in the US Senate, along with his colleagues from l0pht.
The US institutions call the group to testify on the vulnerability of critical internet infrastructures. He said the group had discovered an exploit that would “allow him and his colleagues to take the entire Internet offline in 30 minutes.” A cold shower for the Senate.
But the vulnerabilities turned out to be concrete and the hacker continued to work around the institutions. Zatko continued to advise Bill Clinton’s administration on cybersecurity, and his work with the US government continued even after Clinton’s presidency.
“BeforeSept. 11 I worked a lot with the government and after the attacks I did even more, “Zatko said.” I took a leave of absence from my company and did pro bono work for the government. I was a citizen with the skills the country needed and I felt it was my responsibility to help. “
Darpa, Google and the White House. Before Twitter
From there his career took off. There Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), a division of the United States Department of Defense, hired Zatko in 2010 as a program manager.
From 2013 to 2015 he works at Googlebut quits to go to work at White House asked him to create software to establish the security of software for consumers.
In 2016, Zatko and his wife Sarah designed and developed a tool that applies security scores to software. As requested. The couple claims to have built it in their basement.
Zatko has joined Twitter as the company’s security officer in 2020, shortly after a high-profile hack compromised several celebrity accounts. A normal job. Until the dismissal. And to the accusations.
Elon Musk asked Zatko to testify at the trial on the Twitter case that will take place in October in Delaware. It is not difficult to imagine that he could play a key role in inducing the judges to decide in favor of Tesla’s boss.