Jeff Bezos’ phone hacked — Are any of us safe?

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos. CEO of Amazon and the world’s richest man. (Photo: Complex via Getty/Elif Ozturk.)

According to reports from The Guardian, Jeff Bezos’ phone was purportedly hacked by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The attack seemed to originate from a suspected infected file sent to Jeff Bezos from the Mohammed bin Salman’s WhatsApp account.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabian, Mohammed bin Salman. Photo: ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

The investigations began after US tabloid National Enquirer published private information about Bezos’ secret relationship with Lauren Sanchez. At the same time, he was married to McKenzie Bezos. Additionally, Bezos posted a lengthy blog on “Medium” detailing an apparent blackmail attempt by AMI, owner of the National Enquirer.

To find out how the National Enquirer got that information, the world’s richest man ordered an investigation into if and how his device got breached. The inquiry determined that a video file sent from MBS’s WhatsApp account may have contained malicious code. However, no malware was found during testing.

According to the UN’s Human Rights report on the issue, a forensic investigation revealed Mr Bezos’ phone began operating unusually after the video file arrived on his iPhone X. The report claims there was a massive 29,156 per cent increase in the amount of data sent from Jeff Bezos’ phone following the video’s receipt.

It’s believed that Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post may have made him a target of the Saudi government. The Washington Post has been critical of the Saudi regime and Mohammed bin Salman especially after the killing of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government representatives. Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, wrote several pieces criticising the Crown Prince before his death in October 2018.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington, USA, denied any involvement in the hack and the National Enquirer claimed the secret information came from another source.

The apparent hack raises serious questions about government targeting and cybersecurity in general.

Our smartphones hold vital pieces of information about not only ourselves but our loved ones. This apparent hack sounds many alarms. At any point, our device security may be compromised even without our knowledge. Though we may not be able to stop or detect a targeted attack, there are ways to prevent malware from infecting our devices.

Protect your device from hacks

  • Don’t stick random thumb drives into your computer or phone.
  • Keep your device updated.
  • Stop using unsupported software (like Windows 7).
  • Install security software.
  • Don’t visit shady websites.
  • Be wary of unsolicited files received through messaging apps.
  • Turn off auto-downloaded MMS and other files in messaging apps.