MBS allegedly used Israeli spyware to hack Jeff Bezos’ phone.
Rabat – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have used Israeli spyware to hack the world’s richest man, UN experts said today, January 22.
The victim of an alleged cyberattack in 2018, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos hired cybersecurity experts to pinpoint the perpetrator. The experts concluded Bezos’ phone was likely infiltrated by a video file sent through WhatsApp.
A UN report based on the experts’ findings alleges that Saudi Arabia’s MBS sent the video that contained spyware from the Israeli cyber firm NSO Group Technologies. The malicious file in the video exfiltrated large amounts of data from Bezos’ phone.
“The forensic analysis assessed that the intrusion likely was undertaken through the use of a prominent spyware product identified in other Saudi surveillance cases, such as the NSO Group’s Pegasus-3 malware, a product widely reported to have been purchased and deployed by Saudi officials,” UN special rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye state in an official report.
NSO’s Pegasus malware is widely purchased and deployed by Saudi officials, the report added.
“The use of WhatsApp as a platform to enable the installation of Pegasus onto devices has been well-documented and is the subject of a lawsuit by Facebook/WhatsApp against NSO Group,” the report continues.
“The hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone occurred during a period, May-June 2018, in which the phones of two close associates of Jamal Khashoggi, Yahya Assiri and Omar Abdulaziz, were also hacked, allegedly using the Pegasus malware.”
A targeted attack
The prince’s active campaign against dissidents and political opponents add weight to the allegations, the UN experts argued.
“At the time of the alleged May 2018 hack of Mr. Bezos’ phone, Jamal Khashoggi was a prominent columnist for The Washington Post whose writing increasingly raised concerns about the Crown Prince’s rule,” the experts stipulated.
“On 2 October 2018, Saudi government officials murdered Mr. Khashoggi … The Post quickly began its substantial coverage of the disappearance and murder investigation, expanding into reporting a number of related aspects of the Crown Prince’s rule in Saudi Arabia.”
The Saudi prince then allegedly targeted Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, as an adversary of the kingdom.
“This was part of a massive, clandestine online campaign against Mr. Bezos and Amazon,” the UN experts concluded.
Saudi officials have dismissed the claims, but the UN experts maintain that the allegation of Saudi involvement “demands an immediate investigation by the US and other relevant authorities.”