Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ mobile phone was “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message apparently sent from the personal account of Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, reported the Guardian.
An encrypted message from the prince is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated Bezos’ phone, according to results of a digital forensic analysis. The forensic analysis found it “highly probable” that the hack was triggered by an infected video file sent from Mohammad Bin Salman’s WhatsApp account to Bezos. Another report by the Financial Times, which has seen the digital forensics report, said that forensic experts hired by Bezos have concluded with “medium to high confidence” that a WhatsApp account used by the crown prince was directly involved in the hack.
Bezos’ phone reportedly started sharing vast amounts of data after receiving an unsolicited, apparently harmless, but encrypted video file from the prince’s WhatsApp account in May 2018.
The file was sent weeks after Bezos and the prince exchanged numbers at a dinner during a US trip by the crown prince. The prince had met multiple US executives to attract investment to the Saudi Kingdom. The relation between Bezos and prince Mohammed went south after the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who criticised the prince’s autocratic regime in Saudi in a regular column in the Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos. A Saudi court sentenced five people to death in December 2019 for Khashoggi’s murder.
Digital forensic experts began examining Bezos’s phone following the publication of intimate details about his personal life in US tabloid National Enquirer in January 2019. The story included his involvement in an extramarital affair, and set off Bezos’ security team looking for how the tabloid got hold of Bezos’ private texts.
The Saudi embassy in the US tweeted today that media reports suggesting that the kingdom is behind hacking of Bezos’ phone are “absurd”, and called for an investigation “so that we can have all facts out”.
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