back to article Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia accused of hacking Jeff Bezos' phone with malware-laden WhatsApp message

Candid pictures used to threaten Amazon boss Jeff Bezos were exposed not by his current paramour's brother, as some believe, but through a sophisticated hacking operation personally directed by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, The Guardian suggests. The paper today claims to have been told by anonymous …

  1. Winkypop Silver badge

    Big enough

    Is there a leaky boat large enough and an ocean wide enough to launch all of these tiresome actors?

  2. Schultz

    "it... may see the kingdom cut out of deals altogether"

    Hahaha haha. Good one.

    As long as there is oil and money to be had, the ugly kingdom will have plenty of friends. Come on, if you can get away with murder, what's a little spying charge going to do.

    Sadly, we live in a world where money and power can buy friends in the best places. The best friends, even the bestest friend in the most beautiful office of the greatest power of the world.

    1. james 68

      Re: "it... may see the kingdom cut out of deals altogether"

      Don't forget, they also got away with the largest and most heinous terrorist attack in history. (Allegedly).

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: "it... may see the kingdom cut out of deals altogether"

        It's unlikely that the government of Saudi Arabia had any idea of what was going on, after all, who would they sell their oil to, and buy weapons from, if the US wasn't there?

        On the other hand, it's well documented, but apparently not widely known, that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens, and interactions between the hijackers and the Saudi embassy in the US were redacted from the official US report into 9/11.

        1. Gonzo wizard

          Re: "it... may see the kingdom cut out of deals altogether"

          Geoff Bezos is not the USA, he's just the rich American owner of a newspaper that was highly critical of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, as mentioned in the article, he is most definitely not in favour with the Idiot-In-Chief either, who wouldn't care less about this hack - and probably actually enjoyed that it happened, even if the blackmail angle backfired.

          It is not unreasonable to argue that the perpetrators never expected Bezos to do what he did, and that they hadn't therefore factored in public discussions of the hacking or a UN investigation with all the adverse publicity (and outcomes) it will attract.

        2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: "it... may see the kingdom cut out of deals altogether" @phuzz

          after all, who would they sell their oil to, and buy weapons from, if the US wasn't there? .... phuzz

          Everybody else would be problematical for Uncle Sam. As would be anybody else too. That suggests there be vast market choices readily immediately available with Uncle Sam just simply being in many a case, an incumbent one.

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    If it quacks and walks and talks like a FCUKing Duck, chances are it's a FCUKing Duck

    Seems like something right out of the Five Eyes Cookbook ..... A CIA/NSA Recipe for Madness and Mayhem on the Broil.

  4. Ochib

    Investigative reporter needed

    Oh wait, they killed the last one who looked to closely into the affairs of the Kingdom

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Investigative reporter needed

      And look how well that turned out for them...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Investigative reporter needed

        So far, they've got away with it.

  5. Allan George Dyer

    Bezos should have been more careful...

    Personally, I'm very suspicious when a foreign prince sends me a message.

    1. Chunky Munky

      Re: Bezos should have been more careful...

      Oh I don't know, they all seem a pretty friendly bunch. They're always sending me messages and offering me deals

      1. BebopWeBop

        Re: Bezos should have been more careful...

        But their spelling and grammar generally leave a lot to be desired.

    2. Bernard

      Re: Bezos should have been more careful...

      Bezos is one of a handful of people for whom an out of the blue offer of $30m might mathematically not be worth his time even if it were legit.

    3. el kabong

      Agreed, I got a message from a Nigerian prince years ago

      Never opened it, it's still there, languishing.

      Same as you, I'm also suspicious of foreign princes.

  6. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    "We call for an investigation on these claims"

    Er, dudes, there's been one, and you got caught out.

    Now, it would be a crying shame if one of Bezos' rockets veered off course and set your oil fields alight, wouldn't it?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: "We call for an investigation on these claims"

      That is a good point. Pissing off Musk and Bezos is becoming an increasingly dangerous idea. Sorry, we were just flight-testing our new rocket and... Ooops! Boom!

  7. Twanky Silver badge

    So the main lesson is one we knew already: Separate devices for your private and business lives. To which list we can now add 'intimate' lives.

    I know everyone wants the convenience of always having a single device with all the information they may want to hand at any time - but we also know that just receiving a message can cause a compromise and there are always consequences.

    So don't put everything on your phone... if your phone is your social/play device then don't let business matters anywhere near it.

    Fair play to Mr Bezos though for effectively spiking the attempted blackmail - despite the consequences.

    1. IareFlash

      Get your patient pads out....

      There is a device waiting to be invented, a device that wipes your phone every night then does a restore to some previously known good state...

      Obviously something needs to ensure your backup is not compromised (plug for Index Engines) or something.

      1. Mr Dogshit

        Re: Get your patient pads out....

        What are patient pads?

        Some kind of incontinence pants?

    2. Sherrie Ludwig


      If you carried separate SIM cards, and swapped them into the one phone, would it be enough? SIMs are so small they would not be a burden.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Question

        Enough to do what? But almost certainly, the answer is no. All you can accomplish by switching out a SIM is to change the number and provider you're using. Some phones can store a contact list on a SIM as well, but that's an abridged version of what it already has on the device itself. Furthermore, that only affects traditional phone services such as voice and SMS text messages. This involved a message application that runs without using information stored on a SIM.

    3. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change
      Thumb Up

      Fair play to Mr Bezos though for effectively spiking the attempted blackmail - despite the consequences.

      Indeed, methinks a worthy successor to Wellington's famous defiance.

  8. Peter 26

    Time for the super rich to fund security research?

    I'd like to see the super rich like Bezos fund security research into anything they use day to day. We'd all benefit from it if he had a team looking into WhatsApp security finding bugs and alerting WhatsApp. Apparently this breach cost him his marriage and a $38 billion settlement with his wife, whatever it costs it's going to be a drop in the ocean compared to that.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: Time for the super rich to fund security research?

      > We'd all benefit from it if he had a team looking into WhatsApp

      Some of us would not befefit from that at all.

  9. eldakka Silver badge

    Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.

    — Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) January 22, 2020

    Excellent. I support this.

    So when will Saudi Arabia allow US investigators unfettered access to all of MBS's communication devices, appointments, meeting notes, the Saudi Arabian security services records of such, and so on?

    1. Horridbloke

      @unfettered access

      TO be fair the US investigators probably already have unfettered access.

      1. stiine Silver badge

        Re: @unfettered access

        Technically, the NSA isn't a U.S. investigatory agency. They're spies.

  10. Mog_X

    To clear this up...

    The Saudis wish to invite Mr Bezos to their embassy in order to 'cut' to the chase......

    This is the coat with the bone saw in the pocket.

  11. Steve 149

    The CIA has already sent MBS an invite to Dallas....

  12. Blazde

    We're all missing the most important angle here..

    Crown Prince hacks Bezos' phone to perv at dick pics. Classic case of homoerotic penis envy. Deserves many lashes, and ideally a well-funded UN inquiry to establish just how small the prince's thing really is.

    He even hired a guy called Mr Pecker to do the cover-up! Just how obsessed can one man be?

    1. Twanky Silver badge

      Re: We're all missing the most important angle here..

      important angle. I see what you did there.

      Oh? Just me then?

      1. Gonzo wizard
        Thumb Up

        Re: We're all missing the most important angle here..

        Yup. Just you.

  13. Aodhhan

    Jeff Bezos hacked his own phone

    It's been known for some time there have been various vulnerabilities within this application. Attempting to pin it on someone can get a bit difficult, unless you can also get records from the various ISPs being used by the phone.

    The way Bezos acts--has acted in the past, particularly in how he uses his news paper reporters to target those he doesn't like... I wouldn't put beyond scope, that Bezos hired someone in Saudi Arabia to hack his phone so he can then have his paper (or leak it out to other reporters), that his phone was hacked. Bezos has a bit of a credibility, likeability and is a known cheater. He's looking for ways to make himself the victim, instead of the predator.

    Let's get real, it's not like the images leaked were anything too compromising or made Bezos look bad. If you were out to hurt Bezos, you would have used the worst photos on the phone--and/or doctored some. Neither was the case.

    Too often today, people believe everything the press (or anyone) when they say something a bit outrageous. Without taking the time to dig a bit deeper, and use some common sense.

  14. israel_hands

    This story gets murkier with every step. So, Bezos keeps annoying Trump by inconsiderately printing the truth and calling the big orange retard out on his lies. Consequently Trump's mate who runs a shitty little scandal mag starts targetting Bezos, who hits back by getting his security guy to start investigating. Bezos then gets a blackmail attempt from said shitty publisher threating to expose his dick pics unless Bezos specifically states that there was no forgeign involvement in hacking his devices.

    Bezos calls their bluff, publishes his own dick pics and tells them to go fuck themselves. His security guy probably takes note of the specific terms of the blackmail agreement and starts focusing his efforts on uncovering evidence of foreign hacking of Bezos' devices. Subsequently he uncovers links from the head of a foreign government who, for a time, was quite friendly with Bezos but is even more friendly with Trump.

    Skeptics will immediately wonder why the fuck the Saudi's would be interested in getting involved in this. The obvious answer being that not only was Bezos printing things about Trump but one of the columnists working for the same paper was continually slating the Saudi regime.

    Interestingly, Khashoggi wasn't clipped until after the Bezos hack. I wonder if the Saudi intelligence service extracted more than just dick pics and got some juicy info about what Khashoggi was going to do next and this prompted the badly-planned embassy hit?

    1. A random security guy

      >Interestingly, Khashoggi wasn't clipped until after the Bezos hack.

      Maybe Khashoggi found more than the prince anticipated. You don't print everything; you print only things that can be proven by two or more sources and you are limited by the number of words. So there may be more dirt worth digging for.

  15. Cynic_999

    Unfounded conclusion

    Why assume that the prince was responsible just because he sent the virus? If you received an infected kitten video from your mother, you would not immediately conclude that your parents were trying to hack your phone, would you?

    Quite plausible IMO is that someone decided to hack the Saudi prince. Not realising that the video was a trojan horse, the prince forwarded it to his social media contacts, giving the original hacker a bonus. Not sure I understand the alleged connection between this and the Khashoggi murder either.

    When a Western government and/or a whole bunch of Western media articles make the same allegation, most Western people tend to regard it as being a fact. I do not assume that the Saudi prince was responsible for the murder in Turkey, or that the Russians were responsible for the nerve agent attack in England, or even that Saddam Hussein was an evil tyrant just because "everyone says so". Look very critically at the evidence being given to support those allegations (or the absence thereof).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfounded conclusion

      Everyone can draw his own conclusions about Saudi Arabia / MBS on this one:

      - Murdering a Washington Post journalist.

      - Well documented incidences of spying on mobile phones, using highly developed commercial spyware.

      - Well documented history of pressuring people they don't like.

      So you don't need to suspend your disbelief to believe this particular allegation. Rather seems to fit an established pattern. It's quite the asymmetric fight: MBS fights for his reputation, his opponents fight for their limbs and lives. Or their marriage, you get the idea.

      Straight out of a playbook for a medieval prince: preserve your power through fear.

      1. Cynic_999

        Re: Unfounded conclusion

        Saudi is not the only country that has done such things by a long chalk, and when state actors are involved "false flag" scenarios are always a possibility, as are false accusations, especially when also involving very rich individuals. You could cite many countries using evidence of "an established pattern" Including the US, which has used viruses developed by the NSA against its own citizens in the past.

        I do not say that the prince definitely did not do it and I am not suggesting who else did - I am just urging caution about believing that this particular person was responsible for this particular event. There are plenty of ways that other states could have done it and implicated the prince.

        Incidentally, the virus in question originated in Israel, not that anything should be implied from that.

  16. VinceLortho

    Pickles Everywhere

    Pecker not Packer.

  17. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change


    The BBC have been broadcasting a slightly different version of this story, citing a UN report (from some months ago IIRC) as a source for it.

    Sorry to be vague: I was travelling all day yesterday (bloomin' rail disruption), and getting an often-poor radio signal on my phone, so I only half-heard it.

  18. BuckeyeB

    Now if Bezos wasn't so hostile toward trump, he might have gotten him to authorize a present for the Saudi Prince at the airport.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. A random security guy

    A Personal attack by a crown prince on one of the richest men

    Saudis owe us a lot; we went to war for them twice; we could have let Saddam overrun them. So, for us to let this idiot of a prince get away with his activities can only come about if

    a. trump was already aware of it. No state actor will do it otherwise. It must have been cleared with him using vague words

    b. this was personal for trump; trump did not support Khashoggi nor Bezos

    c. trump is beholden to the Saudis as well as to Putin to a degree that makes any discord a matter of existential threat

    d. trump may have even instigated the whole thing

    e. the US agencies (CIA, NSA, FBI) must have more information than they are disclosing

    f. Saudis are dictating our foreign policy

    g. There must be intelligence briefings that our senators and house intelligence members are not talking about.

    h. we don't know of an alternative to the Saudi royal family

    i. Our vulnerability to oil has clouded our vision

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