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Jeff Bezos phone hack: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may be linked, say U.N. experts

Happier times: A file photo of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.

Happier times: A file photo of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Amazon chief Jeff Bezos.  

They demand immediate investigation by relevant authorities; Riyadh terms the allegations ‘absurd’.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have been involved in a plot to hack the phone of Amazon’s billionaire boss Jeff Bezos, U.N. experts said on January 22.

The U.N. special rapporteurs, Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, said they had information pointing to the “possible involvement” of the Prince in the alleged 2018 cyberattack.

Saudi officials have dismissed the allegations as absurd.

Cybersecurity experts hired by Mr. Bezos, the world’s richest man, concluded his phone was probably infiltrated by a video file sent from a WhatsApp account purportedly belonging to Prince Mohammed, known as MBS, in 2018, according to a person familiar with the matter.

They said the device began leaking massive amounts of data about a month afterwards, the source said.

Ms. Callamard, the special rapporteur for extra-judicial killings, and Mr. Kaye, special rapporteur for free expression, said the allegation of Saudi involvement “demands immediate investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities”.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud dismissed the allegations. “I think ‘absurd’ is exactly the right word,” he told Reuters in an interview in Davos. “The idea that the Crown Prince would hack Jeff Bezos phone is absolutely silly.”

The allegations could nonetheless further damage relations between tech tycoon Mr. Bezos and Riyadh, and risk harming the kingdom’s reputation with foreign powers and investors.

Khashoggi killing

The alleged cyberattack is said to have taken place months before the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the Saudi government and a columnist for the Bezos-owned Washington Post.

Prince Mohammed said in 2019 that the killing was carried out by rogue operatives and that he did not order it.

In another previous flashpoint, Mr. Bezos’ security chief said in 2019 that the Saudi government had gained access to the Amazon CEO’s phone and leaked messages to U.S. tabloid the National Enquirer between Mr. Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor who the newspaper said he was dating.

A month before, Mr. Bezos had accused the newspaper’s owner of trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing “intimate photos” he allegedly sent to Ms. Sanchez. The Saudi government has denied having anything to do with the National Enquirer reporting.

Saudi Arabia’s U.S. embassy also dismissed the allegations. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out,” it said in a message posted on Twitter.

Amazon declined to comment.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 4:04:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/jeff-bezos-phone-hack-saudi-crown-prince-mohammed-bin-salman-may-be-linked-say-un-experts/article30627418.ece

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