The 2018 hack of Jeff Bezos’s cell phone, which resulted in the release of private messages and photos confirming the Amazon CEO was having an affair with a former television anchor, was reportedly carried out by Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
According to the Guardian, a digital forensic analysis concluded it was “highly probable” that a WhatsApp message sent from MBS’s phone and personal account on May 1 contained a video file infected with malicious malware designed to infiltrate Bezos’s phone and make its contents accessible to the Saudis. A person familiar with the matter told the Guardian that the hack resulted in “large amounts of data” being extracted from Bezos’s device.
Gavin de Becker, Bezos’s chief of security, accused the Saudi government of being behind the hack in March of 2019. In an op-ed for The Daily Beast, de Becker alleged that MBS and the Saudi government targeted Bezos in an effort to damage the world’s richest man because he owned the Washington Post–the newspaper where Saudi dissident and critic of the crown prince’s regime, Jamal Khashoggi, was employed as a columnist.
U.S. intelligence officials have maintained that Khashoggi’s brutal 2018 murder came at the direct order of MBS, though the crown prince denies any involvement in the killing.
“He probably believed that if he got something on Bezos it could shape coverage of Saudi Arabia in the Post,” former National Security Council official and Middle East expert Andrew Miller told the Guardian. “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 MBS, whether it is going after the head of one of the largest companies in the world or a dissident who is on their own.”
Agnès Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur (independent expert) specializing in extrajudicial killings reviewed the forensic analysis of Bezos’s phone and agreed with the conclusion that the Saudi government was responsible for the hack, and said investigators were seriously considering requesting a formal explanation from the Saudi government, according to the report.
A Bezos lawyer declined to comment but said their client was cooperating with the probe.
[image via Getty Images/Drew Angerer]