Saudi Arabia Denies Hacking Jeff Bezos as UN Calls for US Investigation

January 22, 2020 Updated: January 22, 2020
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Saudi Arabia denied hacking Jezz Bezos’ iPhone after an unverified leaked report claimed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent an infected file to Bezos’s device, leading to its hack, as the United Nations called for a probe into the allegations.

Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said the unsubstantiated report was “silly” and “absurd.”

Speaking to Reuters, Al Saud said: “I think absurd is exactly the right word. The idea that the crown prince would hack Jeff Bezos’ phone is absolutely silly.”

“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd,” the Saudi Embassy in Washington added. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”

The statements came as David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Agnes Callamard, the U.N. rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said they received information suggesting bin Salman’s possible involvement in surveilling Bezos.

“The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia,” they said in a statement. “The allegations reinforce other reporting pointing to a pattern of targeted surveillance of perceived opponents and those of broader strategic importance to the Saudi authorities, including nationals and non-nationals.”

“These allegations are relevant as well to ongoing evaluation of claims about the Crown Prince’s involvement in the 2018 murder of Saudi and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi,” they continued.

“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents.”

Epoch Times Photo
In this Oct. 14, 2019 file photo, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks to Russian President Vladimir Putin during the talks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo)

The human rights experts referenced a digital forensic analysis from last year but did not say which firm conducted the analysis or provide a link to the analysis. An “annex” (pdf) they attached to their statement summarized technical methodologies deployed by the unnamed technical experts, who reportedly said they had “medium to high confidence” that Bezos was hacked due to activity from bin Salman.

Kaye and Callamard said the analysis concluded that bin Salman and Bezos exchanged WhatsApp and phone numbers the month before the May 2018 hack and that Bezos’s phone received an MP4 video file from bin Salman’s account, followed by a “(for Bezos’ phone) unprecedented exfiltration of data from the phone” that continued “over some months.”

The Saudi denials and U.N. statement came after reports from some media outlets about the forensic analysis. Some reports also didn’t list the source of the analysis. The Financial Times reported that the forensic experts were hired by Bezos and that the analysis was led by Anthony Ferrante of the firm FTI Consulting.

The firm hasn’t confirmed the analysis publicly. The company didn’t return a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
Chief Executive Officer of Amazon Jeff Bezos (L) and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez pose for a picture during their visit at the Taj Mahal in Agra on Jan. 21, 2020. (Pawan Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

While Bezos and his representatives accused Saudi Arabia of hacking him last year, a Wall Street Journal investigation found that Michael Sanchez, the brother of Lauren Sanchez, Bezos’s lover, sold texts between Bezos and his girlfriend to the National Enquirer’s publisher for $200,000.

Reached by the paper, Michael Sanchez didn’t deny sending pictures of Bezos to the Enquirer. Sanchez later told Fox News that he made a “deal with the devil,” or the Enquirer, claiming he did so to try to protect his sister’s and Bezos’s relationship.

“My goal was and is always to protect Jeff, Lauren, my parents, my niece and my nephews,” he said. “Anyone who doesn’t get that by now is an idiot.”

Anonymous sources later told the New York Post that a probe headed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York found no evidence that Saudi Arabia was behind the leaked pictures, though it was determined possible for the Saudis to have hacked Bezos.

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