Amazon’s owner and the recent world richest man, Jeff Bezos was reportedly “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
The Guardian (UK) reported the encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman contained a malicious file used in the phone infiltration.
Bezos claimed that forensic digital analysis revealed that his phone intrusion was triggered by an infected video file sent from the Saudi heir.
Large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’s phone within hours, according to a person familiar with the matter. There was currently no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used.
The disclosure is likely to raise difficult questions for the kingdom about the circumstances around how US tabloid the National Enquirer came to publish intimate details about Bezos’s private life – including text messages – nine months later.
It may also lead to renewed scrutiny about what the crown prince and his inner circle were doing in the months prior to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist who was killed in October 2018 – five months after the alleged “hack” of the newspaper’s owner.
However, Saudi Arabia has denied it targeted Bezos’s phone and has insisted the murder of Khashoggi was the result of a “rogue operation”.
In December, a Saudi court convicted eight people of involvement in the murder after a secret trial that was criticised as a sham by human rights experts.
Digital forensic experts started examining Bezos’s phone following the publication last January by the National Enquirer of intimate details about his private life.
When the British newspaper contacted Bezos’ lawyer, the reply was: “I have no comment on this except to say that Mr Bezos is cooperating with investigations.”
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