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18 Feb 2020 2:52
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  •   Home > News > International

    United Nations report says Saudis hacked Amazon boss Jeff Bezos's phone, implicates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

    The United Nations issues a report that indicates Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been involved in the phone hacking of Amazon boss and the world's richest man Jeff Bezos.

    UN experts said on Wednesday that they had information pointing to the "possible involvement" of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hacking of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone in 2018.

    A joint statement from Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur for extra-judicial killings, and David Kaye, the UN's special rapporteur for free expression, said the allegation "demands immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities".

    At a time when Saudi Arabia was supposedly investigating the killing of Saudi critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and prosecuting those it deemed responsible, "it was clandestinely waging a massive online campaign against Mr Bezos and Amazon targeting him principally as the owner of The Washington Post," the experts said in their statement.

    The UN experts reviewed a 2019 digital forensic analysis of Mr Bezos' iPhone, which they said was made available to them as UN Special Rapporteurs.

    The experts said records showed that within hours of receipt of a video from the Crown Prince’s WhatsApp account, there was "an anomalous and extreme change in phone behaviour" with enormous amounts of data from the phone being transmitted over the following months.

    'Absurd' allegations

    Earlier, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud dismissed speculation that Saudi officials were involved in the plot to hack Mr Bezos's phone, calling the very notion "absurd".

    Cybersecurity experts hired by Mr Bezos, the world's richest man, had concluded his phone was probably infiltrated by a video file sent from a WhatsApp account purportedly belonging to the Crown Prince.

    The initial report said the device began leaking massive amounts of data about a month afterwards.

    "I think 'absurd' is exactly the right word," the minster told Reuters in an interview in Davos.

    "The idea that the Crown Prince would hack Jeff Bezos's phone is absolutely silly."

    Saudi Arabia's US 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.

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

    National Enquirer incident

    In another previous flashpoint, Mr Bezos' security chief said last year that the Saudi Government had gained access to the Amazon CEO's phone and leaked messages to US 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.



    © 2020 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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