Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammad bin Salman had got the mobile phone of Amazon billionaire and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos hacked in 2018, the UK newspaper, The Guardian has claimed.
Though the Guardian said it has “no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used” but it claimed that “large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’ phone within hours.”
Bezos’ phone got hacked, the newspaper said, after he received a WhatsApp message “apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince”. The Guardian said that the “encrypted message from the number 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 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 newspaper said.
“The two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on May 1 of that year, the unsolicited file was sent,” Guardian said quoting anonymous sources.
However, the Saudi embassy in Washington on Tuesday dismissed suggestions the kingdom hacked the phone of Washington Post owner.
“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd (sic),” the Saudi Arabian embassy said on its Twitter account.
“We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”
The 2018 intrusion into the device led to the release of intimate images of Amazon founder Bezos, whose Post newspaper employed a contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist murdered later that same year at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul.
Jeff Bezos hired Gavin de Becker & Associates to find out how his intimate text messages and photos made their way into the hands of the National Enquirer, which reported on the Amazon chief’s extramarital affair, leading to his divorce.
In March last year, de Becker said he concluded that Saudi Arabian authorities hacked the Amazon chief’s phone to access his personal data.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information,” de Becker wrote on The Daily Beast website at the time.
But de Becker did not specify which part of the Saudi government he was blaming for the hack and gave few details about the investigation that led him to the conclusion that the kingdom was responsible.
In December, a Saudi court exonerated Prince Mohammed’s top aides over the murder of Khashoggi, a verdict condemned globally as a travesty of justice but backed by Washington.
Both the CIA and United Nations special envoy Agnes Callamard have directly linked Prince Mohammed to the killing, a charge the kingdom vehemently denies.
(With agency inputs)