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Twitter fired possible Saudi mole Ali Alzabarah after security tip-off



jack dorsey twitter ceo square
CEO Jack Dorsey.

Drew Angerer/Getty

  • Twitter fired an engineer in
    2015 after intelligence officials alerted the company to the
    fact that he might be a mole working for Saudi Arabia,
    The New York Times reports
  • Ali Alzabarah was reportedly hired in 2013 and
    subsequently groomed by Saudi intelligence operatives to spy on
    dissident accounts.
  • Twitter could not find evidence that Alzabarah sent
    user data to the Saudi government, but fired him in December

Twitter fired an engineer after the company was tipped off by
intelligence officials that he may have been groomed by the Saudi
The New York Times reports

In a report which claimed that a troll army working for Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman harassed dissidents like murdered
journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Times
said Twitter was told about a potential mole on its books at the
end of 2015.

Ali Alzabarah joined Twitter in 2013 and rose to an engineering
post that gave him access to user details such as phone numbers
and IP addresses, the Times reports.

Citing three people briefed on the matter, the newspaper said
Western intelligence officials told Twitter that Alzabarah had
become closer with Saudi intelligence operatives who convinced
him to snoop on several accounts.

Twitter placed Alzabarah on administrative leave while it
conducted an investigation and questioned him. The company
reportedly found no evidence that Alzabarah gave data to the
Saudi government, but still fired him in December 2015.

Twitter sent emails to the owners of “a few dozen” accounts
accessed by Alzabarah, saying: “As a precaution, we are alerting
you that your Twitter account is one of a small group of accounts
that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors.”

The accounts belonged to security and privacy researchers,
surveillance specialists, policy academics, and journalists,
according to the Times. Some of those targeted worked for the Tor
project, a nonprofit organisation which helps people defend their
privacy online.

Twitter declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.
The Saudi Arabian embassy did not immediately reply to a request
for comment.

Alzabarah did not respond to the Times’ requests for comment. He
returned to Saudi Arabia where he now works for the government,
the newspaper said.

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