United Kingdom

UN: Israeli spyware from NSO Group may have been used in Saudi hack of Jeff Bezos

A report issued by the United Nations suggests that malicious spyware created by Israeli company NSO Group may have been used by Saudi Arabia to hack Jeff Bezos' phone and steal his nude selfies. 

The report issued on Wednesday by the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights suggested that NSO Group's Pegasus spyware was the 'most likely' explanation for data that was stolen from Bezos' phone.

A video file that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent Bezos on WhatsApp on May 1, 2018 was identified in the report as the likely source of the malicious code.

The report notes that the Saudi Royal Guard acquired the Pegasus-3 spyware from NSO Group in a November 2017 contract. 

Malicious spyware created by Israeli company NSO Group may have been used by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (left) to hack Jeff Bezos' (right) phone 

The logo of the Israeli NSO Group company is seen on a building where they had offices in Herzliya, Israel in a file photo.

The firm's wares have been used by governments to target journalists in Mexico, opposition figures in Panama and human rights activists from the Middle East.

The U.N. experts said Bezos' phone hacking occurred during a period in which the phones of two close associates of Jamal Khashoggi were also hacked, allegedly using the Pegasus malware.

Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit squad in October 2018 after writing columns critical of bin Salman in the Washington Post, which Bezos owns.  

NSO Group said in a statement it was 'shocked and appalled' by the reports linking its software to the Bezos phone hacking.

'If this story is true, then it deserves a full investigation by all bodies providing such services to assure that their systems have not been used in this abuse,' the company said.

'Just as we stated when these stories first surfaced months ago, we can say unequivocally that our technology was not used in this instance,' the company said.

The first messages between Jeff Bezos, in green, and the Saudi prince were in April after they met at a dinner in Hollywood

This is the message that Mohammed bin Salman sent Jeff Bezos on May 1 which is thought to have been the 'hack' that harvested data from his phone 

In October, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, sued NSO in the U.S. federal court in San Francisco, accusing it of helping government spies break into the phones of about 1,400 users across four continents.

Targets of the alleged hacking spree included diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials.

NSO has denied the allegations, saying it solely 'provides technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime'.

Amnesty International will ask an Israeli court on Thursday to order Israel to revoke the export licence of NSO Group, whose software is alleged to have been used by governments to spy on journalists and dissidents.