Jeff Bezos' phone hacking incident has raised many questions, but the biggest one is who is to be blamed for it all?
The FTI and the Guardian reported that a forensic analysis of Bezos' phone showed that it was compromised via the WhatsApp message and a United Nations report also confirmed and provided extensive forensic details reiterating the same. However, the story has since then seen many twists and turns. Here is everything that happened.
The discovery of the hack
The UN report said that Bezos was "subjected to intrusive surveillance via hacking of his phone as a result of actions attributable to the WhatsApp account used by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman". The report linked the break-in to the Washington Post's criticism of the Saudi regime and Prince MBS -- the media organisation that Bezos owns.
The FTI report said that the spyware likely stole gigabytes worth of information from Bezos' phone over the months. "A timeline analysis of cellular data originating from Bezos' iPhone X reveals a 29,156 per cent increase in unauthorized egress data within hours of the video's delivery. There were also several additional notable spikes in egress data following the initial spike on May 2, 2018, ranging from 221MB through a highly atypical 4.6GB," the report said.
Was NSO's Pegasus used to hack Bezos' phone?
The UN report's timeline reveals that Facebook had itself acknowledged in November 2019 that WhatsApp could be used to exploit a user's phone via a malicious MP4 video file. As per the reports, the forensic analysis of the attack showed that the used spyware was most likely NSO Group's Pegasus-3 malware or the Hacking Team's Galileo. However, the NSO Group has denied the use of Pegasus to hack into Bezos' phone.
Facebook blames iOS for the hack
In a recent development, WhatsApp parent company Facebook has blamed Apple's operating system for the hacking of Bezos' phone. It said that WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption is unhackable. In an interview to the BBC last week, Facebook's Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, compared the hack to opening a malicious email, saying that "it only comes to life when you open it".
Also, the end-to-end encryption protects information in transit, but once the device itself is hacked, the E2E security is rendered useless.
Apple is yet to issue a statement on Facebook's comment.
Where does Bezos' girlfriend Laren Sanchez sit in all this?
As per a Wall Street Journal report, New York prosecutors have evidence that Jeff Bezos' girlfriend Lauren Sanchez shared compromising texts about her affair with Bezos to her brother who then sold those photos to the National Enquirer, which then published the story about Lauren and Bezos's affair in January last year.
However, based on FTI's and the Guardian's individual reports, there is a theory that links Bezos' phone hack with National Enquirer's story. It is believed that publication received the tip about Bezos' affair from Saudi Arabia after his phone got hacked in May 2018 but there is no evidence to support this theory and the National Enquirer has maintained that it received information from Lauren Sanchez's brother.
Washington Post says can't be sure MBS hacked Jeff Bezos phone
A Washington Post article by its "Editorial Board" has said that even though a contracted cybersecurity consultancy has concluded as much with "medium to high confidence," they do not know for certain that Saudi Crown Prince MBS is responsible for hacking Jeff Bezos' iPhone. However, the Post said that they know that "spyware sold by private companies has been responsible for similar intrusions — and that the world has done far too little to shed light on the shadowy industry that sells these tools".
Well, the mystery remains unsolved and too many theories trying to spin a new angle to 2020's most influential hacking incident. Stay tuned for updates.