Tags: bezos | saudi | crown | prince | hacking

Cyberexperts Doubt Saudi Prince Infected Bezos Phone

Cyberexperts Doubt Saudi Prince Infected Bezos Phone
Mohammed bin Salman (AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Saturday, 25 January 2020 12:36 PM

Cyberexperts say a report claiming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind hacking Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's phone is inconclusive. 

"It raises some interesting questions, some of which I think require further explanation," Bill Marczak, a researcher with Toronto-based technology watchdog Citizen Lab, told The Wall Street Journal.

According to cyberforensics specialists, the November 2019 report relies heavily on circumstantial evidence to make its case that a WhatsApp account associated with the prince was used to hack Bezos's phone. 

The report, released this past week, says Bezos and Salman had a friendly text exchange on May 1, 2018, after which Salman sent a video file. Bezos opened the video and "large amounts of data" was taken from his phone, and a digital forensic analysis said the intrusion was likely triggered by the video. 

Forensics specialists, however, said FTI did not perform important steps in its investigation to show a more complete picture of what had happened on Bezos' phone, an iPhone X. The most important piece of evidence that was not there was the malicious software used to hack into the Amazon founder's phone. 

FTI says the malware may be in an encrypted file that was sent to Bezos' phone, but it was not able to decrypt the file, but Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory at Stanford University and Marczak both said.

Stamos, who was chief security officer at Facebook, the owner of WhatsApp, said FTI had access to the data needed to decrypt the video file and examine it to determine if it was infected with malware. 

FTI also said the firm didn't "jailbreak" the phone, or circumvent its security restrictions, but Stamos said that is an important step toward determining if there is "nation-state level" malware on a device. 

The experts also said that the timing of the data surge was suspicious, but it was also circumstantial evidence that didn't prove the video Bezos received concluded a hack had taken place. 

Saudi Arabia has called the report, produced by FTI Consulting in Washington, absurd, but officials close to the crown prince said they were aware of a plan to hack Bezos's phone but not to blackmail him. 

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Cyberexperts say a report claiming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind hacking Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's phone is inconclusive. "It raises some interesting questions, some of which I think require further explanation," Bill Marczak, a researcher with...
bezos, saudi, crown, prince, hacking
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2020-36-25
Saturday, 25 January 2020 12:36 PM
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