The news of Jeff Bezos’ phone being hacked is not new. There have been a lot of finger-pointing and conspiracy theories on the rise.” It is believed that Bezos’ phone was hacked when he downloaded a 4.4MB video file containing malware while using Whatsapp.
Facebook stated that the blame for this hack lies squarely with Apple as Whatsapp’s “end-to-end encryption in unhackable.”
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, in an interview with BBC last week stated that the hacking was like opening a malicious mail and that “it only comes to life when you open it.”
Clegg, to quote, told BBC:
“It sounds like something on the, you know, what they call the operate, operated on the phone itself. It can’t have been anything on the, when the message was sent, in transit, because that’s end-to-end encrypted on WhatsApp.”
Further, Clegg believes “something” has affected the operating system on the phone. He states:
“As sure as you can be that the technology of end-to-end encryption cannot, other than unless you have handset, or you have the message at either end, cannot be hacked into.”
End-to-end encryption is a means to ensure that the communications are secure and prevents outside parties from accessing the data as it is being transferred from one end to the other. It gets encrypted on the sender’s side and is then decrypted on the recipient’s side. WhatsApp has started providing this encryption by default since 2016.
However, leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy, says that while such an encryption does provide security, and messages or calls cannot be accessed by third parties as these cannot be intercepted and decrypted en-route, “once anyone can get to your handset, whether a human or a piece of software, the encryption doesn’t matter anymore. Because on your handset, it’s all decrypted.”
There has been speculation that this could be done by Israel-based cyber tech firm NSO group as they had done last year. In 2019, phones of 1,400 journalists and human rights activists were targeted and broken into by using the Pegasus software, a spyware, that was installed on these devices and was used to destroy WhatsApp’s security walls.
FTI Consulting, the firm that investigated Bezos’ phone after the alleged video was opened, reports that the phone started transmitting “unusually” large amounts of data, including messages from Bezos to his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.
As of yet, there is no confirmation or news on who is responsible for hacking Bezos’ phone.