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Jeff Bezos' investigator claims Saudi Arabia hacked Amazon chief's phone

If Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone can be hacked, then it means every other phone can be hacked too.

  • Published: April 1, 2019 2:29 PM IST

Jeff Bezos, the Chief Executive Officer of Amazon and the world’s richest person, may not be immune to hacking after all. Gavin de Becker, a celebrity security, who counts Bezos as his client for 22 years, has concluded that Saudi Arabian authorities hacked into his phone and gained access to personal data. The investigator doubles down on the narrative that Saudi officials are after Bezos’ personal data after Amazon chief had himself cited the allegation in a Medium post in February.

Becker, who was hired to look into the release of intimate images, made the claim in a bombshell op-ed published by the Daily Beast. “Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information,” Becker wrote. While the private investigator hired by Bezos does not offer any concrete evidence to support the claim that Saudi authorities hacked into Bezos‘ phone, he said that the evidence has been filed with federal officials. It is not clear who those officials are or when the details were shared by Becker and his team.

The article states that the conclusion was reached based on a broad array of resources including “investigative interviews with current and former AMI executives and sources, extensive discussions with top Middle East experts in the intelligence community, leading cybersecurity experts who have tracked Saudi spyware, discussions with current and former advisers to President Trump, Saudi whistleblowers, people who personally know the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known as MBS), people who work with his close associate Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi dissidents, and other targets of Saudi action, including writer/activist Iyad el-Baghdadi.”

The issue stems from an article published by National Enquirer, a magazine published by American Media, Inc. The article detailed the ongoing relationship between Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, which reportedly led to the divorce with MacKenzie Bezos. The Enquirer said that it got access to intimate images of Bezos through Michael Sanchez, the now-estranged brother of Lauren Sanchez. Becker writes that AMI did not take any efforts to conceal its sources, which would be the case with any journalist or publication. The investigator further writes that it was the Enquirer which first contacted Michael Sanchez about the affair and not the other way around.

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In the middle of the issue, AMI threatened to publish more embarrassing photos of Jeff Bezos, which lead to Amazon chief writing a strong blog on Medium, detailing the terms set forth by the Enquirer’s parent company. In the op-ed, Becker shares that AMI executives also asked them to sign an eight-page contract saying that the investigation had not relied upon “any form of electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their news-gathering process.” The use of those words traces the whole issue back to Pegasus spyware, which was reportedly used by the Saudi kingdom to spy on journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Becker further links the hacking to extensive coverage of the murder of Khashoggi by The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos. Khashoggi was reportedly killed by operatives at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year. “It’s clear that MBS considers The Washington Post to be a major enemy,” de Becker wrote at the end, referring to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the kingdom, who was termed responsible for the murder by the US Senate. The explosive opinion by Becker raises questions about security aspects of digital devices we use everyday. It needs to be seen whether security officials reveal how or whether Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked by Saudi officials.

  • Published Date: April 1, 2019 2:29 PM IST