It seems that not all is fair in love and cyber-war.
An exclusive report from The Guardian has stated that Amazon’s billionaire CEO had his smartphone hacked in 2018 after a WhatsApp exchange with the Saudi Arabian crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
“The encrypted message from the number used by 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’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner writes.
“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 report states. While the motive of the reported attack on Bezos remains pure speculation, some have been quick to point out that as the owner of the Washington Post, Saudi Arabia might have been looking to compromise and ultimately blackmail Bezos for favorable coverage in his newspaper.
“He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post. It is clear that the Saudis have no real boundaries or limits” - Andrew Miller
“The two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on 1 May of that year, the unsolicited file was sent, according to sources who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity. Large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’ phone within hours,” the report adds.
The revelation looks set to have a profound impact on both Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, where Saudi Arabia is attempting to lure investors in the kingdom as it transitions from a previously fossil fuel-backed economy to that of a modern, sophisticated kingdom.
There is also a potentially clearer picture of how US Tabloid The National Enquirer was able to publish salacious details of Jeff Bezos’ private life, which included text messages and images nine months after the initial hack is said to have taken place.
“It may also have lead,” the Guardian writes, “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 newspapers’ owner.”
Andrew Miller, a former member of the national security council in the Obama administration said that the attack could be representative of the ‘personality-based- environment in which the crown prince operates most effectively. “He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post. It is clear that the Saudis have no real boundaries or limits in terms of what they are prepared to do in order to protect and advance MSB, whether it is going after the head of one of the largest companies in the world or a dissident who is one of their own.”