The Guardian broke the story claiming that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman may have sent Amazon's Jeff Bezos a malicious video file that mined his phone for personal data.
This week, British daily The Guardian published an exclusive news story that claims Amazon-owner Jeff Bezos had his phone hacked when he received an innocuous but encrypted video file through Whatsapp from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman.
A Whatsapp trojan horse
According to a digital forensics analysis commissioned by Bezos that was investigatingan earlier hack that had infringed on his personal life, the study supposedly found new evidence that pins a 2018 infiltration of his personal phone on Saudi Arabia.
“The encrypted message from the number used by [Saudi Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man, according to the results of a digital forensic analysis,” the Guardian explained. “This analysis found it “highly probable” that the intrusion into the phone was triggered by an infected video file sent from the account of the Saudi heir to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.”
Supposedly, “large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’s phone within hours,” but the Guardian has no knowledge of the exact nature of this data.
The hack took place on May 1st, 2018, five months before Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation” by multiple Saudi agents who have faced trial since, 5 of which face the death penalty. Khashoggi’s writings were critical of the Crown Prince, which supposedly led to the silencing operation by these rogue operatives.
Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, was supposedly targeted because of his publication’s anti-Saudi stance, media reports allege.
Following the Guardian’s article, the Financial Times (FT) came forward with a few more details concerning the hack.
Citing business advisory firm FTI Consulting, which FT revealed is handling the digital forensic report, the publication reported that “within hours of the video file being sent by WhatsApp to Mr Bezos, ‘a massive and unauthorised exfiltration of data from Bezos’s phone began, continuing and escalating for months.’”
FT continued: “The amount of data hacked from the phone was in the dozens of gigabytes, compared to the few hundred kilobytes daily average in the months before the video file was sent, the analysis found.”
No conclusive evidence
It is worthy of note that FTI Consulting’s report does not claim to have conclusive evidence and its findings could not be independently confirmed by the Financial Times.
In response to these media reports, the Saudi Embassy in the US dismissed their validity, calling for a thorough investigation.
“Saudi Arabia does not conduct illicit activities of this nature, nor does it condone them,” a Saudi official told FT in response to the allegations. “We request the presentation of any supposed evidence and the disclosure of any company that examined any forensic evidence so that we can show it is demonstrably false.”