It's not uncommon to hear about phishing attacks by malicious hackers out to steal user data. But it's not every day that you hear about the possibility of a Saudi crown prince hacking one of the most powerful CEOs in the world.
In a shocking report on Tuesday, The Guardian reports that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (known to all as M.B.S.) was in a conversation with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in 2018 on WhatsApp when M.B.S. sent Bezos a video file that contained a malicious payload. When Bezos clicked on the video, according to sources who spoke to The Guardian, malware was downloaded to his phone and gigabytes of data were stolen. It's unclear what kind of data was taken.
If the timing sounds familiar, it's because soon after the data was stolen, National Enquirer published photos and other information about Bezos and his personal life. According to The Guardian, it's possible that someone in M.B.S.'s inner circle gave the stolen data to the tabloid--a claim Saudi Arabia has denied and that has not been confirmed.
That said, The Guardian's sources said Bezos's own investigators found a link between the data and Saudi Arabia, and it's possible that United Nations investigators may question Saudi Arabia on the leak.
The revelation is nothing if not illustrative of the risks major tech CEOs and other high-profile figures face in trying to safeguard their data. But it's uncommon for those people to face hacks at the hands of major political figures around the world.
That said, Mohammed bin Salman hasn't confirmed that he actually stole Bezos's information, and it's possible that Bezos may have thought he was talking to the crown prince when he really wasn't. But if M.B.S. was talking to Bezos, it could have profound effects on Saudi Arabia, foreign investment in the company, and international political implications.
And, if nothing else, it should be a warning to CEOs and other prominent figures: Don't necessarily trust that whom you think you're talking to can be trusted. And, as always, don't click links, videos, or any other content that might put your data at risk. Regardless of who might have stolen Bezos's data, one thing is clear: Big-time executives are being targeted. And they need to be careful to safeguard their data and keep it away from bad actors.