Elon Musk on a Twitter logo.
Photoillustration: Washington Post via Getty Images; Getty Images; Protocol

Musk comes for Mudge

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Good morning! Elon Musk is still trying to get out of his Twitter takeover bid. Can Mudge help him out?

How Zatko could help Musk

Elon Musk has taken a keen interest in Peiter “Mudge” Zatko’s allegations against Twitter. The former Twitter security chief is less interested in whether his revelations help Musk, but they well might.

Here’s what’s working in Musk’s favor: His bot argument has always been weak. He said he wanted to take over Twitter to “defeat the bots,” then claimed Twitter understated the problem.

  • Zatko revealed problems beyond just the bot count Musk has harped on. Allegations around shoddy privacy controls and security lapses could help Musk’s argument that Twitter failed to disclose all of its problems in SEC filings. Crucially, he needs to show that the problems Zatko revealed add up to a material adverse event, a high bar that legal experts thought the bot complaints would probably never meet.
  • The public uproar over Zatko’s revelations itself might be damaging to Twitter. A Senate committee has called on him to testify on Sept. 13.
  • And as if Zatko’s complaint wasn’t enough, another report from The Verge yesterday explains how Twitter stopped a project to launch an OnlyFans competitor because the platform doesn’t do a good enough job of monitoring child sexual exploitation. Musk hasn’t had anything to say about that report, at least publicly, but it could be more fodder for his lawyers.

And here’s what’s working against Musk: Zatko himself. The former security lead said he’ll comply with Musk’s subpoena, but he made it clear that he didn’t come forward with his allegations to help Musk back out of his acquisition.

  • “He did not make his whistleblower disclosures to the appropriate governmental bodies to benefit Musk or to harm Twitter, but rather to protect the American public and Twitter shareholders,” Zatko’s lawyers said in a statement.
  • Keep in mind that even though Zatko has some insight into Twitter’s approach to spam and bots, his claims don’t have too much evidence to support them.

It’s unclear whether Zatko’s deposition will help Musk very much. But pay attention to what happens next, both in filings that emerge from a deposition on Sept. 9, and in Zatko’s upcoming Senate testimony, during which Musk may pay attention to more than just bots and spam.

— Sarah Roach

Data is shaking up cyber insurance

Cybersecurity insurance, which provides financial protection against damages caused by cyberattacks, seemed like a great idea until 2021 happened and prices soared. But the sharing of data may yet improve things for customers and cloud providers alike.

Cyber insurance has been thrown off-kilter by ransomware attacks that have led insurers to rapidly raise prices and pare back coverage, particularly since last year's massive wave of ransomware attacks.

  • Many believe that cyber insurance won't be sustainable without giving insurers an inside look at a policyholder's IT environment. The big cloud providers have that data.

Some insurers are working directly with cloud providers and are finding it may be a better way to provide coverage and set rates.

  • Global insurance giant Munich Re, for instance, has been working with Google Cloud and insurer Allianz on a policy that aims to provide customers with lower costs, coverage for a broader set of cyber risks and greater transparency into the entire process.
  • Meanwhile, Microsoft has partnered with At-Bay on a policy focused around the use of the cloud-based Microsoft 365 productivity suite, while AWS has teamed up with Cowbell Cyber and Swiss Re to provide insurance coverage of workloads running in its cloud.

This benefits the cloud providers, too: the cyber insurance programs each act as an incentive for customers to rely more heavily on their respective cloud-based services.

  • The Google Cloud policy offers coverage for workloads running in its cloud that’s broader than would be available for insuring assets in any other type of IT environment as well as potentially lower pricing.
  • In other words, the more Google Cloud you use, the more benefits you get on your cyber insurance, according to Monica Shokrai, head of business risk and insurance at the company.

Read the full story here.

— Kyle Alspach (email | twitter)

Who should audit your tech?

If you’re hiring candidates using automation, having fair and unbiased AI is vital. Dave Walters, CTO of hiring automation company Hired, knew that picking the right auditor to scrutinize its tech was key — not just to check the AI fairness box, but to offer technical services for a long-term partnership. Walters talked with Protocol’s Kate Kaye about Hired’s decision to let London-based Holistic AI take a deep dive into the machine learning models it uses to match job seekers with the right roles.

Read more about how Hired decided to partner with Holistic AI.

On the calendar

Modernizing payments

NACHA and other industry groups and regulators are pushing for big changes to the way payments can be made. In this virtual event, we'll speak with a panel of payment experts and regulators to discuss how banks can stay ahead of the curve and ensure the U.S. can catch up with innovation overseas. RSVP here.

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People are talking

BlocPower founder and CEO Donnel Baird said recent legislation is a catalyst for upcoming climate action in the U.S.:

  • “We have a lot of policy pieces in place that are more than enough to jumpstart a massive building electrification movement in the U.S.”

Facebook's Tom Alison said he recognizes the "weighty" responsibility of recommending content to users:

  • "If there is any company that has risen to the challenge of trying to do this at scale, I think it’s Meta."

Making moves

Robert Hoblit joined payment platform NMI as CRO. Hoblit most recently served in the same role at DigiCert.

Madrona, Seattle’s biggest VC, signed a lease in Palo Alto for its first Silicon Valley office.

Jeremi Gorman and Peter Naylor are Netflix's first ad strategy executives. Gorman and Naylor previously led advertising for Snap.

Jane Horvath is leaving Apple for a law firm, sources told Bloomberg. Horvath was the company's chief privacy officer and worked at Apple for over a decade.

Lloyd Adams is SAP's new president of the North America division. Adams has been with SAP for over two decades and most recently led the East division of the U.S.

In other news

Susan Wojcicki was almost Elon Musk's right hand in command. She considered leaving Google for Tesla in 2014, according to a new book about YouTube.

Snap plans to lay off 20% of its staff, or nearly 1,300 people, The Verge reported.

Gopuff wants to borrow $300 million as a cash cushion. The beleaguered startup is nearing an agreement with banks to establish a revolver loan, according to WSJ.

FTX, Coinbase, Binance and others received inquiries from a congressional committee for information about their operations to safeguard consumers from crypto-related fraud. The FTC, SEC, CFTC and Treasury Department were also sent inquiries.

An advocacy group wants the FTC to limit Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta from entering the auto market, based on their track record of handling and collecting data.

The FTC and six states are suing Roomsterfor allegedly paying for reviews and charging for access to fake listings.

First Solar is building a new domestic factory following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Google blocked Truth Social from the Google Play Store for not “having effective systems for moderating user-generated content,” which violates Google's terms.

Where in the world is Wikipedia?

Looking for a fun way to waste some time? Watch people update Wikipedia in real time. This map tells you when, where and what people are updating on Wikipedia in dozens of languages. Though new edits flood in every second, the map only picks up changes from unregistered users whose edits are identified by their IP information, so this represents just a small fraction of total edit activity.

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