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Report: Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos' phone was hacked by the Saudi crown prince

It all started with a WhatsApp conversation

Photo by Pool / Bandar Algaloud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had his cellphone hacked in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

The news came after Bezos hired cybersecurity experts from FTI consulting, a business advisory group based in Washington, to conduct a digital forensic analysis on his phone.

Here's more from The Guardian:

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.

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.

The report said that the two were involved in a seemingly friendly conversation on the messaging platform when on May 1, 2018, an unsolicited video file was sent from the crown prince to Bezos.

Soon after, large amounts of data began leaking from Bezos' phone. It is unclear at this point, however, as to what data was taken or how it was used.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some officials at the United Nations have seen FTI's analysis and are expected to publicly announce the findings as soon as Wednesday.

The Saudi Embassy in the U.S. responded shortly after news broke, denying any involvement from the Kingdom and calling the media reports "absurd."

Nearly a year ago, Bezos published a lengthy blog post accusing the publisher of the National Enquirer of attempting to blackmail him by threatening to release embarrassing photos proving he was involved in an extramarital affair. The photos, Bezos suggested, had perhaps been illicitly obtained by the tabloid's publisher in cohort with the Saudi Arabian government.

A month later, Bezos' private investigator Gavin de Becker reported in the Daily Beast that "our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone, and gained private information."

Another point of contention between Bezos and the Saudis involves Bezos' ownership of the Washington Post. In November 2018, the CIA concluded with "high confidence" that the Saudi crown prince ordered the assassination of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, despite the Kingdom's repeated denials.

Khashoggi was reportedly a prominent critic of the crown prince's policies.

The Guardian report notes that recent hacking revelation could potentially undermine the crown prince's efforts to lure western investors into Saudi Arabia.

The future leader of Saudi Arabia is known to be open to western reform but also highly volatile.

One last thing…
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