Jeff Bezos’ Phone Was Hacked by Saudi Crown Prince, Say British Reports

Saud al-Qatani, social media
Saud al-Qatani, social media propagandist for Saudi Arabia, is said to have obtained the Israeli software to hack the phone of the Amazon boss. (Credit: Twitter)

The Guardian had the scoop first, based on anonymous sources. The FInancial Times confirmed the story citing cybersecurity experts hired by the Amazon mogul. These experts are said to have “medium to high confidence” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was involved, says FT.

MBS has established a close relationship with President Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner who defend him from the CIA’s finding, endorsed by director Gina Haspel, that MBS was responsible for the assassination of journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

The hacking of Bezos is only one aspect of Saudi Arabia’s wide-ranging campaign to target, harass, and silence critics of MBS.

How the hack allegedly happened, according to the Guardian

The two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on 1 May of that year, the unsolicited file was sent, according to sources who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity. Large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’s phone within hours, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Guardian has no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used. The extraordinary revelation that the future king of Saudi Arabia may have had a personal involvement

The story has big political implications for MBS. Implicated in the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the impetuous prince is subject to a United Nations investigation.

The Guardian understands a forensic analysis of Bezos’s phone, and the indications that the “hack” began within an infected file from the crown prince’s account, has been reviewed by Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur who investigates extrajudicial killings. It is understood that it is considered credible enough for investigators to be considering a formal approach to Saudi Arabia to ask for an explanation.

Callamard, whose own investigation into the murder of Khashoggi found “credible evidence” the crown prince and other senior Saudi officials were responsible for the killing, confirmed to the Guardian she was still pursuing “several leads” into the murder, but declined to comment on the alleged Bezos link.

According to sources cited by the FInancial Times, it was MBS’s social media maven Saud al-Qahtani obtained the hacking software from European and Israeli companies. The technical report on the hack, now available on Motherboard, says that the exact type of software could not be determined but that it had the same capabilities as a program known as Pegasus. Created by the Israeli private intelligence firm NSO. Pegasus has allegedly been used for repressive purposes in Mexico and Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International.

The Twitter feed of MBS critic, Palestinian blogger Iyad al-Baghdadi (no relation to the late ISIS leader), is a reliable source of information of MBS’s intimidation campaign. Baghdadi describes himself as an “Islamic libertarian.”

Source: Jeff Bezos hack: Amazon boss’s phone ‘hacked by Saudi crown prince’ | Technology | The Guardian

World’s Top Intelligence Agencies, Explained

NSA
CIA Seal

The 21st century has been very good to the world’s spies. Since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, secret intelligence agencies have increased their power and influence in countries as diverse as the United States, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. 

What these spy services have in common is secrecy, techniques, and elaborate emblems to signal their mission. They are a physical reality. They are clandestine bureaucracies, housed in office building and military compounds in all of the major capitals of the world. Their personnel are engaged in

Russia's FSB
  • counterterrorism,
  • covert action,
  • counterproliferation,
  • psychological warfare,
  • paramilitary action,
  • and cyberwar,
  • not to mention, assassination, and drone wars.

In short, intelligence services inform and protect. They also subvert and destroy.

You can’t understand the world we live in until you understand how these secret agencies work. Here’s an introduction to 16 of the world’s most important intelligence services in 2019.

U.S. Adds Chinese Firms to Blacklist, Citing Repression of Muslim Minorities 

MSS

The U.S. government is sanctioning 28 Chinese entities for involvement in the suppression of the Uighur people of China’s Xinjaing province, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Targets of the action include video-surveillance and facial-recognition giants Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, Megvii Technology Inc. and SenseTime Group Ltd. The decision by the Commerce Department to add the firms to its “entity list” alongside telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies Co.—which was added in May—means suppliers will be barred from providing technology that originates in the U.S. to the Chinese firms without a license.

The newly identified entities “have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups” in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, the Commerce Department said.

China’s Ministry of State Security.has implemented a far-reaching regime of social control to assimilate the Uighurs, including re-education, mass surveillance, and dismantling mosques.

Azeem Ibrahim, analyst for the independent Center for Global Policy, says:

This is not a haphazard effort to contain a potentially rebellious borderland minority. It is a systematic use of cultural reprogramming based on an ostensibly scientific “theory of social stability,” in the words of some of the architects of the anti-Uighur program.

The new sanctions, announced on the eve of the stalled tariff negotiations between the two countries, seem more designed to pressure China to make trade concessions than to encourage respect for human rights. 

Source: U.S. Adds Chinese Firms to Blacklist, Citing Repression of Muslim Minorities – WSJ

Israel Accused of Planting Spy Devices Near the White House

Mossad
Mossad
Seal of Mossad – Israeli Foreign Intelligence

The government of Israel, likely that of Saudi Arabia and Russia, hopes President Trump will be re-elected in 2020. But that doesn’t mean they don’t spy on him.

From POLITICO

The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as “StingRays,” mimic regular cell towers to fool cell phones into giving them their locations and identity information. Formally called international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use.

Private Israeli firms, seeded by the expertise of former officers in Mossad and other Israeli intelligence services, are world leaders in the development of spywar.

Based on a detailed forensic analysis, the FBI and other agencies working on the case felt confident that Israeli agents had placed the devices, according to the former officials, several of whom served in top intelligence and national security posts.

That analysis, one of the former officials said, is typically led by the FBI’s counterintelligence division and involves examining the devices so that they “tell you a little about their history, where the parts and pieces come from, how old are they, who had access to them, and that will help get you to what the origins are.” For these types of investigations, the bureau often leans on the National Security Agency and sometimes the Central Intelligence Agency (DHS and the Secret Service played a supporting role in this specific investigation).

“It was pretty clear that the Israelis were responsible,” said a former senior intelligence official.

The story quotes one unnamed intelligence officials as saying that, when notified of the phone surveillance, the Trump White House “took no action to punish or even privately scold the Israeli government.”

Source: Israel accused of planting mysterious spy devices near the White House – POLITICO