Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and the world’s richest person’s smartphone (the iPhone X) was reportedly hacked by Saudi Arabia prince through a malicious WhatsApp message. The new privacy breach throws light on how WhatsApp is prone to severe security issues. Read on to know what exactly happened.
Jeff Bezos phone hacked: What happened?
According to a report by The Guardian, Bezos received a WhatsApp message from Saudi Arabia prince Mohammed bin Salman back in 2018, following their exchange of phone numbers after dinner in Los Angeles. The Saudi prince had visited the US back then, which was considered a mere PR stunt.
The WhatsApp message was sent to Bezos on May 1, 2018, from the Saudi prince’s personal account. The message contained a video file. The video reportedly was about the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Sweden. Additionally, the malware wasn't in the video but in an encrypted envelope in which the video was placed. Once it reached Bezos' smartphone, it got decrypted and the malware was released.
Following a forensic analysis by cybersecurity firm FTI, the file (with ‘high probability’) was found to be containing malware. The malware hacked Bezos’s phone and stole a huge amount of data from his smartphone.
As per the analysis, the malware is said to have two main sources: NSO and Hacking Team and might be similar to NSO's Pegasus malware. However, there is no word as to what data could have been stolen from Jeff Bezos’ smartphone. The Guardian report suggests that Saudi Arabia's chief cybersecurity officer had worked with the Hacking Team previously. This gives us an inkling that the hack's connection with the Hacking Team or the NSO was to target influential people like Bezos.
It is suggested that the Saudi prince aimed to mend his relationship with Bezos after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. However, it seems like the aim was never to extend a hand of friendship but steal Bezos’ data. The hack is also stated to result in the Jeff Bezos’ private messages and images being published by the National Enquirer last year. Having said, nothing concrete has surfaced as of now.
Following this, Saudi Arabia denied the allegations and called them ‘absurd.’ This was done via a post on Twitter from Saudi’s US Embassy Twitter handle.
Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) January 22, 2020
Jeff Bezos phone hacked: Are you at risk too?
Jeff Bezos' smartphone being hacked is a clear indication that this could happen to anyone, given that WhatsApp has security issues. The app was hit by Pegasus malware recently and claimed to have broken WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption.
As this could happen to anyone, its's best to remain safe from the hacks. You should try keeping your smartphone and OS updated, avoid opening suspicious or unknown links or messages and try connecting your smartphone to a secure Wi-Fi network.