- New reporting suggests that Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, hacked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone through WhatsApp.
- The news reignites concerns about the top White House aide Jared Kushner’s reported WhatsApp communications with the crown prince. There is no reporting to suggest Kushner’s phone was hacked.
- Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell told the House oversight committee in December 2018 that Kushner was using WhatsApp for official government communications, including with people outside the US.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Reports that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, the senior White House aide Jared Kushner, communicated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the messaging app WhatsApp caused a stir when they first emerged almost two years ago.
But a new bombshell report from The Guardian suggesting that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone was hacked by a malicious link sent by the de facto Saudi ruler’s number on WhatsApp raises new concerns that Kushner could be vulnerable to similar hacking by the Saudi government.
The Guardian described a forensic analysis that concluded Bezos’ phone was most likely infiltrated after he opened a video file sent to him from the crown prince’s number in May 2018. After Bezos opened the file, data was rapidly extracted from his personal phone, the report said.
The Saudi Embassy in the US released a statement Tuesday night calling the reporting “absurd.”
“Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd,” the embassy tweeted. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”
Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell told the House oversight committee in December 2018 that Kushner was using WhatsApp for official government communications, including with individuals outside the US.
The committee’s chairman at the time, Rep. Elijah Cummings, made Lowell’s admission public last March in a letter alleging that Kushner may have broken federal records laws. Democratic lawmakers and cybersecurity experts have criticised Kushner’s use of WhatsApp.
Daniel Schuman, the chair of the nonprofit Congressional Data Coalition, told CNN last year that Kushner’s practice was “a recipe for disaster.”
Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the messaging service’s cofounder Brian Acton, who has since left the company, encouraged people to delete Facebook because of the company’s privacy violations.
Bezos’ own team began investigating his phone last January after the National Enquirer published a story exposing his extramarital affair. Bezos later accused the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., of blackmailing him by threatening to publish nude images of him.
David Pecker, the CEO of AMI, reportedly had a close relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed in the months leading up to the Enquirer’s story. Bezos himself alleged a Saudi connection in a blog post on Medium in 2019 about the AMI kerfuffle.
There is no reporting to suggest Kushner’s phone was hacked. The White House didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. Facebook previously declined to comment to Business Insider about the hacking report.
Aaron Holmes contributed to this report.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.