Facebook’s WhatsApp blamed for Jeff Bezos’ iPhone hack

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ iPhone may have been hacked after he received a message via Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform, from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to a November 2019 report by FTI Consulting Inc.

Amy Thomson for Bloomberg News:

WhatsApp Bezos hack on an Apple iPhone X
Apple’s iPhone X
The message included a 4.22 MB video. Within hours of receiving it, “a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’s phone began,” according to the report. The Saudi Embassy has denied involvement in the hack, calling the allegations “absurd.”

It’s not the first time WhatsApp’s been drawn into a hacking controversy. WhatsApp in November sued Israeli spyware maker NSO Group, accusing it of infecting phones of some users through the messaging app. The lawsuit said that NSO Group used a vulnerability in WhatsApp, since patched, to secretly deliver its surveillance software to users. NSO denied the claims in the lawsuit and said it would “vigorously fight them.”

MacDailyNews Take: The New York Times‘ Sheera Frenkel today offers more information on the hack of Bezos’ iPhone X:

The video, a file of more than 4.4 megabytes, was more than it appeared, according to a forensic analysis that Mr. Bezos commissioned and paid for to discover who had hacked his iPhone X. Hidden in that file was a separate bit of code that most likely implanted malware that gave attackers access to Mr. Bezos’ entire phone, including his photos and private communications.

Mr. Bezos has been on a singular quest to find out who penetrated the device since early 2019, when he said The National Enquirer’s parent company had threatened to release private photographs and texts, and the forensic study was part of that effort. Those pictures and messages showed Mr. Bezos, who was married at the time, with another woman, Lauren Sanchez. The analysis did not connect the hack to The Enquirer.

Over the years that he has run Amazon, Mr. Bezos has largely kept private. That changed when The National Enquirer published photos and messages last year between him and Ms. Sanchez, a TV anchor. Mr. Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, later got a divorce.

In July 2019, the Bezos’s made their divorce official. With a $38 billion settlement, MacKenzie Bezos became the third richest woman in the world.


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