The Guardian had the scoop first, based on anonymous sources. The FInancial Times confirmed the story citing cybersecurity experts hired by the Amazon mogul. These experts are said to have “medium to high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was involved, says FT.
MBS has established a close relationship with President Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner who defend him from the CIA’s finding, endorsed by director Gina Haspel, that MBS was responsible for the assassination of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.
The hacking of Bezos is only one aspect of Saudi Arabia’s wide-ranging campaign to target, harass, and silence critics of MBS.
How the hack allegedly happened, according to the Guardian
The two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on 1 May of that year, the unsolicited file was sent, according to sources who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity. Large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’s phone within hours, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Guardian has no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used. The extraordinary revelation that the future king of Saudi Arabia may have had a personal involvement
The story has big political implications for MBS. Implicated in the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the impetuous prince is subject to a United Nations investigation.
The Guardian understands a forensic analysis of Bezos’s phone, and the indications that the “hack” began within an infected file from the crown prince’s account, has been reviewed by Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur who investigates extrajudicial killings. It is understood that it is considered credible enough for investigators to be considering a formal approach to Saudi Arabia to ask for an explanation.
Callamard, whose own investigation into the murder of Khashoggi found “credible evidence” the crown prince and other senior Saudi officials were responsible for the killing, confirmed to the Guardian she was still pursuing “several leads” into the murder, but declined to comment on the alleged Bezos link.
According to sources cited by the FInancial Times, it was MBS’s social media maven Saud al-Qahtani obtained the hacking software from European and Israeli companies. The technical report on the hack, now available on Motherboard, says that the exact type of software could not be determined but that it had the same capabilities as a program known as Pegasus. Created by the Israeli private intelligence firm NSO. Pegasus has allegedly been used for repressive purposes in Mexico and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International.
The Twitter feed of MBS critic, Palestinian blogger Iyad al-Baghdadi (no relation to the late ISIS leader), is a reliable source of information of MBS’s intimidation campaign. Baghdadi describes himself as an “Islamic libertarian.”