Wednesday last week, United Nations experts called for an immediate investigation into the possible involvement of Saudi Arabia in the Jeff Bezos phone Hack. They received information suggesting that a WhatsApp account belonging to the Crown Prince was used to install spyware on Bezos’ phone. The experts stated that the UN banned WhatsApp months ago. The UN does not consider WhatsApp as a secure medium.
WhatsApp Phone Hack
Two UN experts, Agnes Callamard and David Kaye, recently became aware of a 2019 forensic analysis of Jeff Bezos’ iPhone. Billionaire Jeff Bezos is not only the founder and president of one of the four largest tech companies, i.e. Amazon. He also owns a major American newspaper, The Washington Post.
The report states with “medium to high confidence” that Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving an infected MP4 video file sent from a WhatsApp account utilized personally by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The hack happened five months before the gruesome murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Agnes Callamard and David Kaye called for a further investigation by the United States into the phone hack. They also stated that any investigation should also look at the “continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents”.
Possible Spyware Contender
The hacking of Mr. Bezos’ phone occurred during a period in which the phones of three close associates of Jamal Khashoggi, namely Yahya Assiri, Omar Abdulaziz and Ghanem Al Masarir were also hacked, allegedly using Pegasus spyware.
The spy tool Pegasus, developed by the Israeli technology firm NSO Group, enables the remote surveillance of smartphones.
NSO Group, however, previously denied any involvement in the WhatsApp hacks. They also repeatedly stated that their “products are only used to investigate terror and serious crimes”.
Should Users Reconsider WhatsApp?
Since June last year, UN officials have been instructed to avoid using messaging apps, like WhatsApp, to communicate. The UN does not consider messaging apps as secure forms of communication.
This is even though every private WhatsApp message is secured via end-to-end encryption to prevent WhatsApp or unwanted third-party sources from viewing messages. The encryption technology used remains the best to date and is highly regarded by security experts.
Nonetheless, Jeff Bezos’ phone hack is a reminder for all of us of the privacy risks associated with smartphones. Generally, it is a good idea to adjust privacy settings, avoid opening mysterious files or playing unexpected or suspicious videos. Moreover, monitoring the traffic of your phone may help to determine if anything is amiss. There are also a number of alternatives to WhatsApp.