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Elon Musk condemns Twitter's data security lapses

The Tesla owner banks on whistleblower Peiter "Mudge" Zatko's claims to bolster countersuit against Twitter

A photograph of Elon Musk at a public event

Elon Musk has accused Twitter of keeping critical data security flaws under wraps, in a court filing as part of his continuing legal battle with the company.

Earlier this year, Musk launched a $44 billion bid to buy the social network and take it private. However, less than three months later, he attempted to withdraw his acquisition bid, citing concerns over bots, spam accounts and false users. The U-term has sparked a fierce legal battle, with Twitter’s board refuting Musk’s allegations and attempting to force the billionaire to abide by the terms of the merger agreement, which includes a $1 billion termination fee.

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A five-day trial is scheduled to begin on October 17, with Musk seeking to avoid the purchase - the price for which Twitter is petitioning to be set at $54.20 per share - as well as the termination fee.

While Musk’s initial claims of inauthentic users have been roundly rejected by Twitter, the matter has been further complicated by new accusations from Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, former head of security for Twitter and longtime industry luminary. 

Speaking at a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Mudge expanded on his previous claims that Twitter’s lax internal security and its policy of testing in production environments puts user data at risk of exploitation, as well as accusing the company of knowingly allowing foreign intelligence agents to operate within the organisation.

For its part, Twitter maintains Zatko was terminated due to poor performance and that his allegations are unsubstantiated, but the revelations have further increased the regulatory scrutiny that Twitter is under, and lend some credibility to Musk’s arguments. 

His previously filed lawsuit has now been revised to include the whistleblower’s claims, particularly those that indicate meddling by China's Ministry of State Security. Musk also condemned Twitter for allegedly failing to comply with a 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission pertaining to user data.

"Needless to say, the newest revelations make undeniably clear that the Musk Parties have the full right to walk away from the Merger Agreement - for numerous independently sufficient reasons," the Tesla CEO’s amended countersuit read.

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