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Facebook Points Blame at Smartphone Vulnerabilities in Bezos Hacking

Amy Thomson

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The hack of Amazon.com Inc. billionaire Jeff Bezos’s phone, allegedly via a WhatsApp message, brings to light potential security weaknesses in smartphone operating systems, Facebook Inc. vice president Nicola Mendelsohn said.

“One of the things that it highlights is actually some of the potential underlying vulnerabilities that exist on the actual operating systems on phones,” Mendelsohn said in a Bloomberg Television interview with Francine Lacqua at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday.

Bezos’s iPhone may have been hacked after he received a message via Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform, from Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to a November 2019 report by FTI Consulting Inc., a business advisory firm, which was published by Vice.

The message included a 4.22 MB video. Within hours of receiving it, “a massive and unauthorized exfiltration of data from Bezos’s phone began,” according to the report. The Saudi Embassy has denied involvement in the hack, calling the allegations “absurd.”

Apple Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more about the Bezos hack here.

Mendelsohn, who helps run Facebook’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business, said that the company would take any allegations that its service was used in a hack very seriously and would look into it, but said the company couldn’t “comment on any individual story.”

It’s not the first time WhatsApp’s been drawn into a hacking controversy. WhatsApp in November sued Israeli spyware maker NSO Group, accusing it of infecting phones of some users through the messaging app. The lawsuit said that NSO Group used a vulnerability in WhatsApp, since patched, to secretly deliver its surveillance software to users. NSO denied the claims in the lawsuit and said it would “vigorously fight them.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Amy Thomson in London at athomson6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Nate Lanxon

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