Archive for January 23, 2020

More Details On The Jeff Bezos Phone Hack Emerge…. Starting With The Fact That It Was An iPhone X That Was Hacked

Posted in Commentary with tags , on January 23, 2020 by itnerd

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that Jeff Bezos had his phone hacked by the Saudis. Though they deny that it was responsible for the hack. And that massive amounts of data was downloaded. Today more details have come out regarding this hack.

  • Yesterday it wasn’t clear what phone he was using. We now know via the New York Times that it was an iPhone X.
  • This hack apparently led to a blackmail attempt of sorts from America Media Inc who also owns the National Enquirer as what was taken was apparently “embarrasing” texts and photos. That in turn led to the famous “No thank you, Mr Pecker” Medium post.

Now when I started writing this story, I thought all of this sounded familiar. And I was right when I started to look back through the blog. The attack vector, and the type of the attack is very similar to an attack on a human rights activist back in 2016. The source of the attack was malware provided by a shadowy company called NSO who is known to sell their malware to governments who don’t exactly have the best human rights records. And at the time Apple released an emergency patch to iOS 9 to close the holes that were used in that incident. Fast forward to today where the UN Report that led to me writing yesterday’s story also points to NSO:

The forensic analysis assessed that the intrusion likely was undertaken through the use of a prominent spyware product identified in other Saudi surveillance cases, such as the NSO Group’s Pegasus-3 malware, a product widely reported to have been purchased and deployed by Saudi officials. This would be consistent with other information. For instance, the use of WhatsApp as a platform to enable installation of Pegasus onto devices has been well-documented and is the subject of a lawsuit by Facebook/WhatsApp against NSO Group.

And to add to this, Facebook who owns WhatsApp fixed an issue that fits this attack vector almost a year ago. And the thought was the NSO group was behind that attack.

Now the question is how did we get to where we are now? Well, this is the theory that is floating around if you accept that the Saudis are behind this is a follows:

  • Just before the hack, The Washington Post, which Jeff Bezos owns, was investigating American Media, Inc and it’s role in helping President Donald Trump silence women he had affairs with.
  • The Washington Post also had writing for them a person named Jamal Khashoggi. He was a vocal critic of the Saudi government and was murdered because of that. And a lot of the negative things that he had to say about the Saudi government ended up in the Washington Post
  • The Saudis were likely not happy about the Washington Post reporting. And they have a bit of a reputation of going after people that they perceive as threats in a variety of ways. Thus they hatched this scheme to use the NSO malware to get something on Bezos. And hit the jackpot with whatever “embarrassing texts and photos” that they got off the phone. Whatever “embarrassing” items they got was then turned over to American Media, Inc to try and punish Bezos for the coverage that they didn’t like. American Media in turn tried to use this “embarrassing” info to shut down the investigation into them helping President Trump. Except that it backfired on them when Bezos went public on Medium.

Interesting theory. But what are needed are facts. Only a broader investigation can not only separate fact from fiction, but it should be able to follow the facts to nail down the parties responsible and hold them accountable in any and every way possible. Clearly this was a very targeted and sophisticated attack. And because of that it is one that cannot go unpunished.