Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was reportedly hacked by Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2018, according to a new bombshell report from the Guardian’s Stephanie Kirchgaessner.
Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of an international investigation into the hacking, the Guardian report reveals that Bezos’ phone was infiltrated after opening a malicious video file sent from the crown prince’s number on WhatsApp.
The two men reportedly had had a seemingly friendly texting exchange on WhatsApp on May 1, 2018, after which an unsolicited video file was sent from bin Salman’s account. After Bezos opened the file, data was rapidly extracted from his personal phone, according to the report.
Saudi Arabia has yet to comment on the Guardian’s report, while a lawyer for Bezos declined to comment beyond saying Bezos was cooperating with investigations.
Representatives for Bezos and the Saudi Arabian government did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment.
Bezos’ own team began investigating his phone in January 2019 after The National Enquirer published a story exposing his extramarital affair. Following the publication of that story, Bezos wrote a Medium post accusing The National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., of blackmailing him by threatening to publish nude images of Bezos.
“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail,” Bezos wrote at the time.
AMI has denied that it blackmailed Bezos and claimed that its reporters were informed about Bezos’s affair by the estranged brother of his girlfriend.
But Bezos’ head of security, Gavin de Becker, said in March that an internal investigation revealed Saudis “had access to Bezos’ phone and gained private information.” David Pecker, the CEO of AMI, reportedly had a close relationship with bin Salman in the months leading up to The National Enquirer’s story.
Saudi Arabia and AMI have both previously denied that Saudi officials were involved in The Enquirer’s publication of the story on Bezos.
According to the Guardian, Bezos could have been a target for the Saudi hack because he owns The Washington Post, which has run coverage critical of the kingdom. Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in October 2018. The CIA determined that bin Salman ordered the killing.