The Saudi government was behind a hack of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ phone that uncovered evidence of an affair and led to a threat from the National Enquirer, a new report from a security expert claims.
World-renowned security expert Gavin De Becker reported on his findings in The Daily Beast on Saturday, saying he was hired by Bezos to find out how evidence of his relationship with Lauren Sanchez and allegedly lurid pictures of Bezos ended up in the hands of the tabloid newspaper.
De Becker recounted how in January, the National Enquirer published a special edition revealing a relationship Bezos was having with Sanchez after he had separated from his wife and before their divorce finalized. There had been rumblings that the government Saudi Arabia had been involved in hacking Bezos’ phone to obtain the evidence, but De Becker noted that the company was unusually vocal about identifying Lauren Sanchez’s estranged brother, Michael, as the source.
But Michael Sanchez also revealed in an interview that by the time he was approached by AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, they knew of the affair and had seen text exchanges between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez.
The story took another turn when AMI threatened to publish embarrassing photos of Bezos that had been stolen from his phone, but Bezos instead wrote an essay on Medium describing the threats from AMI and saying he refused to be blackmailed. Bezos also hired De Becker to find the source of the hacking, and he concluded that the Saudi government was indeed involved.
“Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone, and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details,” De Becker said he found.
The original report pointing to Saudi involvement led to reports that AMI and president David Pecker could face charges for the incident and for what many saw as attempted blackmail of Bezos.
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) March 30, 2019
De Becker added that the Saudi government has had a “close alliance with AMI” and that Saudis have pursued investments in some of the company’s publications. He also added that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman sees the Bezos-owned Washington Post as a major enemy. The Saudi government has admitted that its agents abducted and killed Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and critic who wrote for the Washington Post.