Saudis probably hacked Bezos’ phone

Yolanda Curtis
March 5, 2020

The exact nature of the video file sent from the crown prince to Bezos remains unclear, but immediately afterward, it was reported, "massive and (for Bezos's phone) unprecedented exfiltration of data from the phone began".

But the United Nations said the case illustrated the dangers "from the unconstrained marketing, sale and use of spyware".

The UN special rapporteurs, Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, said on Wednesday that they had received information suggesting that Mohammed bin Salman had surveilled Bezos "in an effort to influence, if not silence" the Post's reporting on his kingdom.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is shown in late 2018 at a Riyadh investment conference.

NSO Group said in a statement it was "shocked and appalled" by the reports linking its software to the Bezos phone hacking.

The newspaper, while quoting "Saudi experts", which include dissidents, said that the alleged hack may be a result of Bezos' ownership of The Washington Post, which published articles written by slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which were critical of the Kingdom.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Tuesday claimed his government had "absolutely nothing to do" with the scandal.

The special rapporteurs, who released their findings in a statement, report to the UN Human Rights Council, but they are independent watchdogs and not UN officials.

They stopped short of identifying which specific technology might have been used in the alleged hack, but said software like that made by Israeli company NSO Group or Italian spyware maker Hacking Team could potentially have been deployed.

Denying involvement, an NSO Group spokesperson said, "Any suggestion that NSO is involved is defamatory, and the company will take legal counsel to address this".

"We know this because of how our software works and our technology can not be used on USA phone numbers", it said. Our products are only used to investigate terror and serious crime.

After a merger past year, Hacking Team is now part of Swiss-Italian cyber intelligence firm Memento Labs.

The Saudi government is denying the allegations.

De Becker cited the Enquirer's business relationship with the Saudis, as well as tough coverage of the murder of a critic of the Saudi regime by the Bezos-owned Washington Post, as reasons why bin Salman might seek to harm the Amazon founder.

The Saudi Embassy in the USA denied that the kingdom has any connection to the phone hack.

"We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out", the embassy added.

A security consultant working for Bezos previously accused the Saudi government of hacking his phone last March, after the National Inquirer, a U.S. tabloid, published details of an affair between Bezos and news anchor Lauren Sanchez.

The Amazon chief declined to halt the investigation, instead publishing copies of emails from AMI. Bezos originally commissioned the analysis in an effort to determine how the National Enquirer obtained private photos and texts exposing his extramarital affair with his now-girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia reiterated its rejection of calls for an worldwide, independent investigation into the murder of Khashoggi, insisting it was well Saudi Arabia has denied accusations made by Amazon chief Jeff Bezos that its crown prince hacked his phone, calling it "absurd".

Other reports by iNewsToday