WASHINGTON—Cybersecurity experts hired by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos have alleged that his phone was probably hacked in 2018 by a WhatsApp account associated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A forensic audit of Mr. Bezos’ phone by FTI Consulting, a business advisory group based in Washington, found with “medium to high confidence” that the device began leaking data shortly after being sent a video file from the WhatsApp account linked to Prince Mohammed, the person said, as part of an operation that siphoned information for months.
Some officials at the United Nations have viewed the report by FTI Consulting and are expected to publicly announce some of the findings as soon as Wednesday, the person said.
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday denied the allegations. “Recent media reports that suggest the Kingdom is behind a hacking of Mr. Jeff Bezos’ phone are absurd,” the Saudi embassy in the U.S. said on Twitter. “We call for an investigation on these claims so that we can have all the facts out.”
A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment.
In a lengthy blog post nearly a year ago, Mr. Bezos accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him by threatening to release embarrassing photos after the tabloid alleged he had engaged in an extramarital affair. Mr. Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, suggested in the post that the photos of him may have been obtained through illicit means that involved connections between the National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc., and the Saudi government.
A month later, a security consultant hired by Mr. Bezos alleged in the Daily Beast that investigators had determined “with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s phone, and gained private information.” But the assertion lacked any forensic support, and didn’t directly implicate Prince Mohammed. The Guardian and Financial Times earlier reported on the FTI allegations.
The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the brother of Mr. Bezos’ girlfriend, Mark Sanchez, had acquired racy text messages the Amazon founder sent to Lauren Sanchez and sold them to the National Enquirer. Mr. Sanchez told the Journal at the time he didn’t want to “dignify” the Journal’s reporting on the sale. He described the reporting on the sale as “old rumors” from anonymous sources. Mr. Sanchez denied sending “the many penis selfies” but declined to comment on whether he provided photos of Mr. Bezos to the Enquirer.
Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in 2018 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the CIA has concluded the act was likely ordered by Prince Mohammed. The Saudi government has contested the findings.
“The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles,” Mr. Bezos wrote in his blog post last year.
An FTI Consulting spokesman said all client work is confidential. ”We do not comment on, confirm or deny client engagements or potential engagements,” the spokesman said.
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