In a shocking turn of events, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s smartphone was hacked hours after he received a WhatsApp message from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The incident took place in 2018 and according to the reports, Jeff Bezos didn’t know that his phone was hacked.
According to the analysis, Bezos received a video from the Saudi Crown Prince on WhatsApp which turned out to be an encrypted malware to transfer data off his phone. The incident was first reported by Guardian who noted that Bezos and Saudi Crown Prince attended a dinner together in Hollywood hosted by Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning producer, and Ari Emanuel, the powerful talent agent, as part of the young crown prince’s tour of America. It was then, the two parties exchanged numbers post which Bezos received a video on 1st May 2018. The analysis noted that it’s “highly probable” it contained malware that penetrated Bezos’s mobile phone and exfiltrated a large amount of data within hours. The forensic analysis didn’t reveal the contents of the video. At this time, we have no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used.
Saudi Arabia has denied its involvement in the hack and the government described the killing of Khashoggi as a result of a “rogue operation”. Khashoggi was a prominent journalist for The Washington Post which is owned by Amazon and was murdered in Saudi Arabia.
Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.
— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) January 22, 2020
Jeff Bezos was suspected of being hacked after the National Enquirer published intimate details about his private life in January 2019. Currently, Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur who investigates extrajudicial killings is working on the case and is reviewing the file received by Bezos.
Saudi Experts have told Guardian that Bezos was targetted because of his involvement with the Saudi government and the fact that he owns The Washington Post.
He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post. It is clear that the Saudis have no real boundaries or limits in terms of what they are prepared to do in order to protect and advance MBS, whether it is going after the head of one of the largest companies in the world or a dissident who is on their own.
– Andrew Miller, Middle East expert who served on the national security council under President Obama
Jeff Bezos’s lawyer didn’t share any information and told Guardian that “Mr Bezos is cooperating with investigations.” This new revelation could spell bad news for the White House as Trump maintains close ties with the crown prince despite a US intelligence finding that Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder.