Tuesday 21 May 2019

Saudis hacked phone of Amazon boss Bezos, claims investigator

Boss: Jeff Bezos owns the ‘Washington Post’ and runs Amazon. Photo: Reuters
Boss: Jeff Bezos owns the ‘Washington Post’ and runs Amazon. Photo: Reuters

Hasan Chowdhury

A SECURITY expert acting for Jeff Bezos has accused Saudi Arabia of obtaining private information from the Amazon chief executive after allegedly hacking his phone.

Gavin de Becker, a security expert who has worked closely with Mr Bezos for 22 years, claims evidence had emerged of Saudi hacking after Mr Bezos directed him to "spend whatever is needed" to find out who was responsible for leaking his messages to Lauren Sanchez, a former television anchor who is reported to have been dating Mr Bezos, the world's richest man.

"Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos's phone, and gained private information," Mr de Becker wrote in an article for the 'Daily Beast' website at the weekend.

In January, the US tabloid the 'National Enquirer' published a series of messages between Mr Bezos and Ms Sanchez shortly after he announced his planned divorce from wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos.

The Amazon chief struck back in February by publishing a blog post that alleged the 'National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc (AMI), had attempted to blackmail him.

Mr Bezos said it had threatened to publish intimate photographs, allegedly sent to Ms Sanchez, unless the investigation into the leaked messages was dropped.

Mr de Becker, who has worked closely with the CIA and FBI during his career, said he was surprised to find AMI allegedly had been "in league with a foreign nation that's been actively trying to harm American citizens and companies".

His initial investigation found that Ms Sanchez's brother, Michael Sanchez, was paid to reveal details of their relationship by the 'National Enquirer'. But after interviews with current and former AMI executives, advisers to Donald Trump, associates close to those at the heart of Saudi Arabia's government, Middle East intelligence experts and cybersecurity specialists, Mr de Becker found the alleged hacking was a "key part of the Saudis' 'extensive surveillance efforts'".

Mr Bezos had become a target of the Saudi regime after the 'Washington Post', which he owns, fiercely criticised Riyadh following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Mr de Becker suggested.

Experts told Mr de Becker the Saudi government can "collect vast amounts of previously inaccessible data from smartphones in the air without leaving a trace", he wrote.

Evidence from the investigation has been turned over to federal officials, Mr de Becker said, while noting that it was "unclear to what degree" AMI was aware of the Saudi government's involvement.

The Saudi government has denied all accusations against the kingdom. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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