Who is Peiter Mudge Zatko? Twitter Hires Legendary Hacker as Head of Security

Peiter Zatko, also known as Mudge, is a computer and network security expert, open source programmer and a hacker.

Micro-blogging site Twitter has hired famous hacker Peiter Zatko, popularly known as Mudge, as its head of security. Zatko will start working in the new position 60 days after the security review is completed at Twitter.

The news was first reported by Reuters. It was confirmed by Zatko, when he replied to the Reuters article on Twitter. "Looks like the cat is out of the bag," Zatko, wrote from his account that shows him as Mudge. "I'm very excited to be joining the executive team at Twitter! I truly believe in the mission of (equitably) serving the public conversation. I will do my best!" he said. Reacting to this, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, "Welcome, Mudge!".

Image for representation only. Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Who is Peiter Mudge Zatko?

Zatko is a computer and network security expert, open source programmer, writer and a hacker. He graduated from the Berklee College of Music and topped his class. He is known to be an adept guitar player. But programming was his calling.

He ran one of the most famous hacker think tanks, the l0pht. He was one of the seven members of L0pht to testify before a Senate committee about vulnerabilities of the internet in 1998. Zatko is considered with high regard as he was one of the first people from the hacker community to work with the government and security industry.

He started out with early research into the buffer overflow, a type of security vulnerability. He published "How to Write Buffer Overflows" in 1995. He also wrote on security advisories and research demonstrating early vulnerabilities in Unix such as code injection, side-channel attacks, and information leaks. He is also the author of security tools L0phtCrack, AntiSniff, and l0phtwatch.

Another important fact is the Zatko has been a member of Cult of the Dead Cow since 1996. It is also known as cDc or cDc Communications and is a computer hacker and DIY media organization. It is a hacking group that released tools to hack Windows forcing Microsoft to step up security.

Zatko came into the mainstream when L0pht became the computer security consultancy @stake in 1999 as he was appointed as the vice president of research and development and later chief scientist.

From Security Summit to Google

Zatko was invited to meet President Bill Clinton during a security summit that was also attended by cabinet members and industry executives. Since then he started working with the government. His first stint was at BBN Technologies where he joined as the division scientist in 2004. He became the project manager of a DARPA project in 2010. But he left DARPA in 2013 and joined Google ATAP as its deputy director.

However, he returned to government services in 2015 when he joined #CyberUL, a testing organization for computer security inspired by Underwriters Laboratories, mandated by the White House. Zatko has also worked as Corporate Vice President of Engineering at Motorola, head of security at Stripe, and Chairman of the Board at the non-profit Cyber-ITL.

Speaking to Reuters, Zatko said he would work towards addressing information security, site integrity, physical security, platform integrity -- which starts to touch on abuse and manipulation of the platform, and engineering.

The decision to appoint Zatko comes after Twitter experienced the most serious security breach involving verified accounts of many well-known people from different walks of life in June 2020. Since then Twitter has been focusing on stepping up its security system. It also hired Rinki Sethi as its chief information security officer in September.

Zatko has been bestowed with the highest medal a civilian is awarded by the Secretary of Defense. He married Sarah Lieberman, a co-worker at BBN, in 2007.