A UN report published Wednesday places a secretive, billion-dollar Israeli spyware company at the center of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s alleged hack of Jeff Bezos’ personal phone.
The UN report found that Crown Prince Mohammed and Bezos exchanged messages on WhatsApp in spring 2018, before Crown Prince Mohammed sent Bezos a malicious video file, after which Bezos’ phone started transmitting a huge amount of data. The report’s authors called for an “immediate investigation by US and other relevant authorities.”
As for the software used for the hack, UN investigators determined that “the most likely explanation for the anomalous data egress was use of mobile spyware such as NSO Group’s Pegasus.”
The NSO Group is an Israeli spyware company valued at over a billion dollars that offers its clients “offensive-cyber capabilities.” The group has previously been accused of helping Saudi Arabia and other countries attack dissidents and journalists, but has repeatedly denied those claims.
It takes a sophisticated actor and significant resources to pull off a hack like the one laid out in the report, cybersecurity experts say, making it a waste to use intrusion tools on most ordinary people.
But powerful business executives and high-ranking government officials do have good reason to be worried. That list could also include Trump administration officials such as Jared Kushner — who, like Bezos, has reportedly communicated with the Saudi crown prince on WhatsApp.