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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone hacked by Saudi crown prince, UN report will say

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos's phone was hacked in 2018. A new UN report will implicate Saudi crown prince for using WhatsApp to hack into the phone of world's richest person.

  • Published: January 22, 2020 1:43 PM IST

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone was reportedly hacked by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The report said that the mobile phone of Bezos was hacked in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message. The message was apparently sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. According to the Guardian, the encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman included a malicious file. This file is believed to have infiltrated the phone of Bezos, the richest man in the world.

The report concludes the crown prince of Saudi Arabia being responsible according to the results of a digital forensic analysis. The analysis claims to have found it “highly probable” that Bezos’ phone was intruded by an infected video file sent from the account of the Saudi heir. The Guardian further notes that the two men were having a friendly WhatsApp exchange when Bezos received the unsolicited file on May 1 of that year. The sources told the Guardian that large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’ phone within hours.

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The report cites people familiar with the matter. The Guardian says it “has no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used.” The report highlights that involvement of MBS in hacking of Bezos’ phone will send shockwaves from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. It will also affect the efforts of Saudi crown prince to lure western investors. Nine months after the hacking incident, US tabloid the National Enquirer published intimate details about Bezos’ private life.

Saudi Crown Prince behind Jeff Bezos’ phone hack

The story published by the National Enquirer revealed details of Bezos’ involvement in an extramarital relationship. His security team immediately began examining his phone to uncover how his private texts were obtained by American Media Inc (AMI). AMI claimed that it was tipped off about the affair by the estranged brother of Bezos’ girlfriend. However, Bezos’ team claimed that it was confident that Saudis hacked into his phone. The security team of Amazon’s founder also submitted their findings to law enforcement officials.

However, Saudi Arabia denied targeting Jeff Bezos‘ phone. The Guardian further adds a forensic analysis of Bezos’ phone indicating the hack began within an infected file from the crown prince’s account has been reviewed by Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur who investigates extrajudicial killings. The findings are said to be credible enough for the investigators to consider a formal approach to Saudi Arabia to ask for an explanation.

Callamard had investigated the murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. She found credible evidence that the crown prince and other senior Saudi officials were responsible for the killing. The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, has been critical of the Saudi regime. “He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post,” Andrew Miller, a Middle East expert told the Guardian.

“I have no comment on this except to say that Mr Bezos is cooperating with investigations,” a lawyer for Bezos told the Guardian. The Saudi embassy in Washington dismissed the reports of the crown prince being responsible for the hack as “absurd”. The story was one of the biggest revelations last year and it could further stress the relationship between the countries. The UN is expected to implicate MBS in its own report to released on Wednesday.

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  • Published Date: January 22, 2020 1:43 PM IST