A U.N. report says that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have been behind the May, 2018, hacking of Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos’s phone.
A statement released Wednesday by two United Nations special rapporteurs accuses Prince Salman of sending malware to Bezos’s iPhone X, giving his regime access to the photos and personal messages of the world’s richest man, the New York Times reports. The cyber attack began with a text from Salman’s WhatsApp account just months after Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi began writing articles critical of the kingdom’s royal family for the paper.
Saudi officials close to Salman said that Saudi spymaster and cyber security chief Saud al-Qahtani was involved in the hack as part of a plan to intimidate Khashoggi, according to the Daily Beast.
Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Turkey five months later on October 2, 2018.
On November 8, 2018, the then-married Bezos reportedly received a text from the prince’s WhatsApp featuring a photo of woman resembling former Good Day L.A. cohost Lauren Sanchez, with whom he was having an affair, along with the caption, “Arguing with a woman is like reading the Software License agreement—in the end you have to ignore everything and click I agree.”
According to the report, “this was after the relationship [with girlfriend Lauren Sanchez] would have been obvious to persons with access to private texts, calls, and images on Bezos’ phone, but months before the relationship was known or reported publicly.”
In February, 2019, Bezos publicly accused the National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him after it reported on his affair. A month later, its parent company and Trump ally American Media Inc. threatened to release a cache of embarrassing photos of taken from Bezos’s phone—they claim by Sanchez’s estranged brother, Michael—unless he publicly stated that the Enquirer report was not “instigated, dictated, or influenced in any manner by external forces, political or otherwise.”
“I’ve seen a lot. And yet, I’ve recently seen things that have surprised even me, such as the National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, being in league with a foreign nation that’s been actively trying to harm American citizens and companies, including the owner of The Washington Post,” security consultant Gavin de Becker wrote in a Daily Beast op-ed at the time.
The Saudi government says that accusations that it was involved in the hack attack are “absurd.” It also claims that the crown prince did not order the murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi in Istanbul.
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