Wed, 19 Feb 2020

UN Experts Say Bezos Phone Hacking Linked to Saudi Prince

Voice of America
23 Jan 2020, 04:05 GMT+10

DUBAI - United Nations human rights investigators say Saudi Arabia may have hacked the cell phone of Amazon boss and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in an attempt to impact the newspaper's news coverage of the Middle Eastern country.

The investigators concluded in a report released Wednesday that an infected video from the WhatsApp account of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was sent to the billionaire's cell phone.

"The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos' phone, and those of others, demands an immediate investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities," U.N. Special Rapporteurs Agnes Callamard and David Kaye said in a report issued in Geneva.

"U.N. digital forensics experts who analyzed Bezos' phone in 2019 said records showed that within hours of receiving the video, there was "an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior," according to the report.

The experts also said enormous amounts of data from Bezos' phone was transmitted in the following months.

The Saudi embassy in the U.S. vehemently denied that kingdom hacked the phone, tweeting that media reports suggesting that such a hack occurred "are absurd." The embassy also called for an investigation into the matter "so that we can have all the facts out."

The report is likely to increase tensions between the Saudi kingdom and Bezos, the world's richest man.

Relations began to sour after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident columnist for the Washington Post.

Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018, five months after Bezos' phone was infiltrated.

"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 of Saudi Arabia, the UN experts said.

The investigators said the timing and circumstances of the hacking are grounds to further investigate "allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for" the plot to kill Khashoggi.

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