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  • Bezos would be the victim of the highest profile of the cyber surveillance efforts that Saudi Arabia has carried out in recent years.

    Bezos would be the victim of the highest profile of the cyber surveillance efforts that Saudi Arabia has carried out in recent years. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 January 2020

Bezos's cell phone was hacked in 2018, after he received a WhatsApp message that apparently had been sent from Mohammad bin Salman's account, as previously reported.

United Nations experts have announced that they have information that proves the "possible participation" of prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, in the 'hacking' of the phone of Jeff Bezos, founder and executive director of Amazon, in 2018.

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In a joint statement, Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, UN representatives in charge of extrajudicial killings and for freedom of expression, respectively, demanded "an immediate investigation by the United States and other relevant authorities."

The Newspaper The Guardian reported, citing sources familiar with the matter, that Bezos's cell phone was hacked two years ago, after he received an encrypted WhatsApp message with a malicious video file that apparently, it had been sent from Bin Salman's personal account.

However, the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington through its Twitter account called an “absurd” the British media comments and requested an investigation into these statements “so that we can have all the facts.”

The UN special rapporteurs reviewed a 2019 digital forensic analysis of the Bezos iPhone. They noted that records showed that within a few hours of receiving a video of the WhatsApp account of the crown prince, there was "an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior" with huge amounts of phone data transmitted during the following months.

While Riyadh was allegedly investigating the murder of the Saudi royal family critic and columnist for The Washington Post, Jamal Khashoggi, and prosecuting those he held responsible, he was also "clandestinely undertaking a massive online campaign against Bezos and Amazon, which was attacking him. mainly as the owner of The Washington Post, "experts said in his statement.

Last March, an investigation pointed to Saudi Arabia as responsible for 'hacking' the mobile phone of the owner of Amazon to access his private information in an act of alleged revenge for the coverage that The Washington Post, which belongs to Bezos, made about the murder of his Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

If the hacking is confirmed, Bezos would be the victim of the highest-profile of the cyber-surveillance efforts that Saudi Arabia has carried out in recent years. Independent experts have concluded that several activists living outside the kingdom have also been targeted by espionage.

According to the UN analysts, the alleged hacking was probably carried out with an espionage product such as the Pegasus-3 of the Israeli company NSO. The Bezos mobile forensic report also cites the possibility of using the Galileo program of the Italian Hacking Team.

The statement from Callamard and Kaye calls for "more rigorous control" of digital surveillance media to protect against abuse. "The urgent need for a moratorium on the sale and global transfer of private surveillance technology is evident," the experts conclude.

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