Is this the move that saves us from spam bots, misinformation, and conspiracy theories? Or will it spell the end for Twitter? Let's explore what experts have to say on the subject.
After weeks of negotiations and legal battles, Elon Musk has been named the new CEO of Twitter. According to reports, the purchase cost him $54.20 per share or $44 billion. Already, Musk has initiated major reforms at the firm, and more are expected in the future.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has fired senior company officials and employees (but later remembered that some were 'essential'), declared his intent to allow banned accounts such as former President Donald Trump to return, and suggested new ways to make the business successful (for example, by charging a subscription fee for verification blue checkmarks).
However, two proposed alterations could have significant effects on the state of cyber security.
Musk wants to bolster the platform's credibility by making it open source. In addition, he wishes to 'fight spam bots or die trying' by using a human verification process.
We'll look at how these two adjustments—if implemented— might affect cybersecurity and the future of social media in general.
An Open-Source Twitter Client
Unfortunately, Twitter has been caught up in some severe issues. It's been said that nefarious characters utilise Twitter to disseminate lies and 'fake news.' Moreover, research has shown that false news stories are more dispersed and received than authentic ones. In mid-2020, a cyberattack led to several high-profile accounts being hacked, including Kylie Jenner, Jeff Bezos, Barack Obama, and Elon Musk, all of whom were tricked into advertising a cryptocurrency scam.
Having the algorithm for Twitter open-source is what Musk believes will make it more trustworthy. However, many cybersecurity experts believe that making Twitter open-source might have unintended consequences.
According to Extrahop VP Jamie Moles, there are significant security implications when using open-source code. Log4Shell and Spring4Shell are examples of vulnerabilities in widely used open-source applications. As we've seen before, by making its code open source, Twitter may be a bigger target for attackers. It may also increase transparency for Twitter users, making Twitter a more appealing target for hackers.
A bad actor could use this information to train bots to game the platform, making their misinformation campaigns more effective. It could also backfire and give bad actors insight into how the platform works to promote content, making it more difficult for them to train bots to game the platform.
Securing the code for the algorithms is met with contention from security experts. It would not, for example, inform us how the algorithms were developed, how decisions are made, or what factors are prioritised. It would, on the other hand, enable more severe security issues.
Bots are becoming a problem.
In his tweet, Musk described his second directive as "defeating" spambots by "authenticating all humans." He did not, of course, provide any details about how this would be accomplished. Many foresee either an improvement to the current Twitter verification system or an identification process requiring users to upload an ID or other documentation to verify their identity resulting from this directive.
Musk's announcement has prompted concern among cybersecurity experts and privacy advocates. While removing pseudonymity and anonymity is one of many ways he might win his war against spambots, he could use technology if his team could devise more sophisticated algorithms for weeding out, detecting, and eliminating these accounts.
Many spambots use machine learning and AI to masquerade as real people, making it hard for real humans to detect them. Although these accounts are frequently utilised to disseminate 'fake news' and disinformation, nefarious individuals have also utilised them to spam, distribute ransomware, and swindle people out of their money. However, AI trained to detect AI might be able to see characteristics we otherwise miss.
This system could change the internet for the better, where so much divisiveness has been caused by outside interference.
Is it the right decision?
Musk becoming Twitter's owner is an indication that he will pursue his goal of reforming the platform. However, is this the right direction to pursue?
It's difficult to determine now if it will be for the greater good, but some believe it will. In an interview with Security Magazine, Casey Ellis, founder of Bugcrowd, expressed that he is looking forward to seeing how social media platforms use algorithms like AI and machine learning to 'shape popular thought,' how they are used as weapons against the people, the consequences they have on society at large, and how we can do a better job of preparing and defending ourselves in the future. According to Ellis, "if Musk sticks to his word about disclosing the methodology for establishing verifiable truths, it will be good for society. I am certain of one thing: the next few months are going to be interesting, no matter how it turns out."
It is time to conclude.
Many cybersecurity experts think that things will not go as Musk plans in that an open-source Twitter will increase trust and destroy spambots. They believe that doing so would open Twitter up to more vulnerabilities and exploits. Despite this, there is no denying that something needs to be done to restore confidence in platforms like Twitter and address the growing issue of harmful misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Twitter has been addressing this issue for many years, removing millions of flagged accounts.
Despite the fact that there are many people who are sceptical about Musk's upcoming alterations, there are still some who believe that he has the answer (or at least will find it soon). Sen. Mark Warner, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently stated:
"Elon Musk's efforts to maintain important reforms in place and prevent a regression that harms democracy and the global discussion taking place on Twitter are my greatest hopes."
If Musk can create a spambot-detecting system that is both effective and efficient, it would be a massive victory for cybersecurity as a whole. Conversely, if he releases an open-source Twitter, it might result in a surge of malware, scams, and provide malicious actors with the resources they need to develop more sophisticated attacks, among other things.
We must wait and see how everything turns out.
Speak to us about how we can protect your organisation against bad actors, including anti-spam and antivirus software, advanced firewalls, and disaster recovery plans.