Jeff Bezos' cell phone was hacked after receiving a message from the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, the Guardian newspaper reported, citing unnamed sources.
A digital forensic analysis found that the theft of data from Amazon.com Inc.'s main phone started in 2018 with an infected video file sent via WhatsApp from Mohammed bin Salman's personal account, the newspaper reported.
The Guardian said he didn't know what data would be extracted from the phone, but the report came about a year after the surprising announcement that Bezos and his wife MacKenzie were getting divorced after 25 years of marriage. In a series of reports, based in part on confidential text messages sent by Bezos, the national investigator subsequently reported an extramarital affair between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a former television host.
Bezos then published an exceptional blog post accusing the tabloid of threatening to publish more embarrassing text messages and photos, unless he publicly affirmed that there was no political motivation or outside force behind the tabloid's reporting.
Gavin de Becker, a security adviser from Bezos, later said he believed the Saudi Arabian government had accessed Bezos' phone before the investigator uncovered the matter. He gave no direct evidence to support what he said of "our investigators and several experts". De Becker referred to the investigator's business relationship with the Saudis, as well as the harsh coverage by the Bezos of the Washington Post's murder of a Saudi regime critic. The newspaper reported last year that the Central Intelligence Agency had linked the Crown Prince to the murder of post-columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
De Becker declined to comment on Tuesday's Guardian report after last year's protracted statement published on The Daily Beast news site. The Saudi embassy called the report "absurd".
Recent media reports that suggest the kingdom is behind hacking Jeff Bezos' phone are absurd. We request an investigation into these claims so that we can find out all the facts.
– Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) January 22, 2020
It is unclear whether the alleged Bezos hacker accessed Amazon's confidential corporate information. The company has not commented in the nine months since de Becker's allegation. Company officials did not return messages looking for a comment on Tuesday.