Saudi crown prince 'hacked Jeff Bezos's phone with WhatsApp message'

Ruben Fields
January 22, 2020

New reporting on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has the rather stunning claim that his phone was hacked after opening a message on WhatsApp sent from Saudi 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.

De Becker had, of course, concluded the exact opposite: that Bezos's phone was compromised by the Saudi government, nearly certainly due to his position as owner of the Washington Post, an influential voice in the corridors of power.

It was five months before Jamal Khashoggi - a columnist for Bezos' newspaper, The Washington Post - was murdered by the Saudi Arabian regime. However, the prince is suspected of involvement in the murder of Khashoggi, which occurred at the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

Saudi Arabia previously denied hacking Bezos' phone after Bezos' private investigator, Gavin de Becker, made the claim in March. And just months after that, text messages and images Bezos sent to his mistress, former television anchor Lauren Sanchez, were published by the National Enquirer. De Becker also said a year ago that the Enquirer had a business relationship with the Saudis.

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While AMI insisted it was tipped off about the affair by the estranged brother of Bezos's girlfriend, the investigation by the billionaire's own team found with "high confidence" that the Saudis had managed to "access" Bezos's phone and had "gained private information" about him.

The Guardian report notes that Bezos and the crown prince had been enjoying an apparently innocuous WhatsApp conversation prior to the file being sent, which comes as little surprise since the royal figure has long cultivated relationships with the Silicon Valley elite.

The timing of The Guardian article, nine months after De Becker initially fingered Saudi Arabia, could be related to the fact that there is a United Nations investigation into the hacking which the paper itself notes "is considered credible enough for investigators to be considering a formal approach to Saudi Arabia to ask for an explanation".

Investigators there are now considering a formal approach to Saudi Arabia to ask for an explanation, their unnamed sources say.

However, Khashoggi's assassination and the Bezos data leak quickly caused whatever relationship existed between Amazon and the Saudi government to deteriorate.

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