Twitter hasn’t managed to catch a break since at least April this year, when Elon Musk officially signed a deal saying he would pay $44 billion to acquire the social media company.
Fast forward to September, Elon Musk pulled out of the deal, throwing the company into chaos and an impending legal battle in the Delaware Court of Chancery. That’s not all, the company is facing serious allegations of misleading regulators, subpar security protocols and potential foreign agents working at the company. The person behind these allegations is a hacker, former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency researcher and Twitter’s former head of cybersecurity, Peiter Zatko.
As a member of L0pht, a hacker collective and think tank, the 51-year-old contributed heavily to how cybersecurity flaws were detected and disclosed. In 1998, Zatko and a few others from L0pht testified before a Senate committee about the vulnerabilities of the internet. In 2010, he went to work for DARPA overseeing cybersecurity research. He later moved on to Google to work for their Advanced Technology & Projects division in 2013.
Here is a timeline of what has happened so far and how Elon Musk, Zatko and Twitter are all involved.
Also Read | Pieter Zatko’s Senate testimony: Key takeaways
Zatko is invited by Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, to head the company’s cybersecurity team after a series of hacks compromised the accounts of several prominent Twitter users like Barrack Obama and Joe Biden in July that year.
Jack Dorsey resigns as Twitter’s CEO effective immediately. The company’s CTO Parag Agarwal is promoted to the office.
Just months after becoming CEO, Agarwal fires Zatko from Twitter.
Zatko has argued that he was fired for raising concerns about the security vulnerabilities and the misrepresentations company executives were making to the board.
Musk begins purchasing Twitter share according to Securities Exchange Commission filings.
SEC filings reveal that Musk bought a 9.2% stake in Twitter. The same month, he begins to attack Twitter’s free speech principles.
Musk is made a board member on April 5 by Agarwal. A few days later Musk declines the seat.
On April 14 Musk reveals his plan to purchase the company for $44 billion at a 38% above its per share price at the time, for $54.20.
The Twitter board approves Musk’s bid to buy the company on April 26.
Also Read | Peiter Zatko testimony: What he claims Twitter collects on its users
Musk puts the deal on hold claiming that Twitter hasn’t definitively been able to prove less than 5% of its users are bots.
Twitter pays Zatko $7 million as a settlement for lost compensation, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The settlement included language that prohibited the hacker from discrediting Twitter. However, Zatko was permitted to speak about the goings on at the company in two scenarios, Congressional hearings and whistleblowing complaints.
The same month, Musk refuses to move the deal with Twitter ahead, saying at the Qatar Economic Forum that it will continue to be on hold till he finds the real numbers.
Zatko files an 84-page whistleblowing complaint with the Securities Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. In his complaint he alleges several issues with how Twitter executives run the organisation, as well as saying that regulators have been misled in the disclosures made by the company.
On July 8, Musk reveals that he intends to pull out of the acquisition deal. In response, Twitter sues the tech billionaire. Days later, Musk countersues
The whistleblowing complaint is made public after being leaked to the Washington Post and CNN. With the allegations laid out in public, Twitter CEO Agarwal releases a statement saying the 51-year-old was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance”.
At the same time, throughout the month, Twitter and Musk file subpoenas for the discovery process. Numerous acquaintances of Musk receive subpoenas, while Dorsey receives one from the co-founder of SpaceX.
Zatko receives a subpeona from Musk, who is seeking information and documents regarding the company’s alleged missteps and the bot and spam accounts. The world’s richest man also sought to delay the trial from its set date of October 17. The request was denied.
Zatko receives summons from a Senate Committee for a hearing on September 13.
Zatko attend a Senate committee hearing on September 13, testifying that he saw various issues with the way security was handled at the company during his tenure there. He said that the company was at least 10 years behind the industry security standards, adding that employees often had access to information they didn’t need to.
In addition, he mentioned that the company had not met its FTC obligations in addition to being potentially compromised by foreign agents. The FBI had earlier warned that there was a likelihood that a Chinese intelligence agency informant worked at Twitter.
The same day as the Senate hearing, Twitter held a shareholder vote to decide whether to approve the $44 billion acquisition by Musk. A Reuters report finds that most shareholders vote in favour of the acquisition.
Earlier in the month, Musk receives permission to amend his countersuit to include the whistleblowing complaint.