13:53 GMT27 May 2020
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    The security advisor to the richest person on Earth; the owner of Amazon.com and the Washington Post, conducted a personal investigation into the leak of the billionaire’s private messages to a US tabloid.

    Saudi Arabia is responsible for leaking the personal information of Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and Washington Post, claims security advisor Gavin de Becker, who performed the duty for Bezos for 22 years.

    In January, the National Enquirer published Bezos's intimate messages to news anchor Lauren Sanchez. The tabloid also acquired Bezos's "intimate photos." When Bezos threatened the magazine for their "politically motivated attack," the tabloid reportedly blackmailed him with the photos, demanding he admit the threats had nothing to do with politics. According to de Becker, the company got this data from the Saudis.

    In an article published by The Daily Beast, de Becker said that Saudi Arabia hacked Bezos's phone in retaliation for the Washington Post's coverage of Riyadh's murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    The security expert made his conclusion after an investigation which included "extensive discussions with top Middle East experts in the intelligence community, leading cyber security experts[…], discussions with current and former advisers to President Trump, Saudi whistleblowers, people who personally know the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, people who work with his close associate Saud al-Qahtani, Saudi dissidents, and other targets of Saudi action, including writer/activist Iyad el-Baghdadi."

    "Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos' phone, and gained private information," he wrote. "As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details," he adds, referring to American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's parent company.

    According to the experts whom de Becker spoke with, the Saudis have recently gained the means to "collect vast amounts of previously inaccessible data from smartphones in the air without leaving a trace-including phone calls, texts, emails."

    The Saudis allegedly used these capabilities to set up "extensive surveillance efforts," which ultimately led to the Khashoggi murder.

    Riyadh is also said to possess an army of trolls, which it unleashed on Bezos October 2018. The attack involved mass calls to boycott Amazon.com and Souq.com, its Saudi subsidiary.

    De Becker also claimed that AMI contacted him privately and demanded he deny finding any evidence of "electronic eavesdropping or hacking in their newsgathering process."

    Saudi Arabia has denied any part of the Bezos affair. In February, Riyadh's minister of state for foreign affairs said Saudi Arabia had "absolutely nothing to do" with the National Enquirer reports.

    AMI is said to have had a history of close relations with Saudi Arabia long before the Bezos scandal. In his article, de Becker cites a different scandal, reported by AP in April 2018. Back at the day, AMI reportedly sent Riyadh a digital "sneak peek" of upcoming magazine issue, "with a grinning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman splashed across the cover." If Riyadh actually paid AMI to influence the magazine's contents, then AMI must have registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, AP report reads. Both AMI and Saudi Arabia denied the connection.


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    investigation, leak, hack, messages, private data, Amazon, The Washington Post, American Media Inc, The National Enquirer, Jeff Bezos, Saudi Arabia, United States
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