UN investigators just backed bombshell claims that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman hacked Jeff Bezos' phone

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA - NOVEMBER 9: Deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud (C), the Minister of Trade and Investment of Saudi Arabia, Majed Bin Abdullah Al Kassabi (L) and founder of the Amazon website Jeff Bezos (3rd L) pose for a photo during his visit in in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on November 9, 2016. (Photo by Pool / Bandar Algaloud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Photo by Pool / Bandar Algaloud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Jeff Bezos (center left) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (center right) at a meeting in 2016.

  • The Guardian reported Tuesday an investigation had found Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone was hacked by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • UN investigators David Kaye and Agnes Callamard released a statement on Wednesday confirming their belief that Crown Prince Mohammed was involved in the hack of Bezos' phone.
  • The detailed report suggested the tool most likely to have been used in the hack was Pegasus, invasive software from secretive Israeli security firm NSO Group.
  • The Saudi government has denied the allegations, calling them "absurd."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

UN investigators said on Wednesday there are reasonable grounds to believe that Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in a hack of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' phone.

The Guardian reported on Tuesday that a forensic investigation of the Amazon CEO's phone had revealed he had been hacked by the Crown Prince in 2018. A number belonging to Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly sent Bezos a WhatsApp message with a video file that contained malware that infiltrated the billionaire's phone.

In their report, the investigators stated that a technical analysis of Bezos' phone suggested that he had been subject to "intrusive surveillance" from Saudi Arabia, and linked Crown Prince Mohammed directly to the hack.

They wrote: "Mr. Bezos was subjected to intrusive surveillance via hacking of his phone as a result of actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."

The New York Times earlier reported on Wednesday that the forensic analysis of the phone had been performed by business advisory firm FTI Consulting.

There is no detail on how, exactly, the WhatsApp exploitation worked. The UN report pointed to Pegasus, invasive software from secretive Israeli security firm NSO Group.

NSO Group is currently being sued by WhatsApp's owner Facebook for comprising users' accounts. Business Insider has contacted NSO Group for comment.

Cybersecurity expert at ESET Jake Moore said in a statement: "This has all the hallmarks of the Pegasus spyware, which is a very sophisticated malware... This particular spyware is used on highly targeted individuals and so people of high value or wealth need to be extremely cautious of such tactics used."

The Saudi government has pushed back against The Guardian's earlier report, calling the allegation "absurd" and calling for an investigation.

The alleged hack is the latest in a long-running saga involved Jeff Bezos, his phone communications, and Saudi Arabia.

After US tabloid the National Enquirer obtained and published texts and intimate pictures shared between Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez last year, Bezos commissioned his private head of security Gavin de Becker to find out who was behind the leak.

In an extraordinary blog post in February 2019, Bezos pointed to links between American Media Inc (the National Enquirer's parent company) and Crown Prince Mohammed. Bezos also pointed out he owns the Washington Post, the paper which employed murdered Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi's killing is widely believed to have been ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed.

A month later de Becker wrote in the Daily Beast that his investigation had concluded with "high confidence" that the Saudis had gained access to Bezos' phone.

This is a developing story...

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